CATARACT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

FAQ’s

Are cataracts only found in older people?

 

Most cataracts develop slowly over time and affect people over the age of 40. In rare cases, infants can have congenital cataracts. These usually are related to the mother having German measles, chickenpox, or another infectious disease during pregnancy; but sometimes they are inherited.

 

My doctor says I have a cataract but wants to wait a while before removing it. Why?

 

Mild cataracts often cause little or no vision problems. Your doctor is probably monitoring your cataract to see if it worsens and more significantly affects your vision or lifestyle before recommending surgery. Some cataracts never reach the stage where they need to be removed. But if your cataract worsens and you begin to have trouble seeing clearly for driving and other everyday tasks, it’s probably time to consider cataract surgery.

 

Are all cataracts treatable?

 

Good news – cataracts can be treated, and your vision restored, potentially even making your vision better than prior to your first cataract symptoms. The only effective treatment for cataracts is surgically replacing the natural eye lens with an artificial lens known as an intraocular lens (IOL).

 

Can you get a cataract suddenly?

 

When the central portion of the lens is most affected, which is the most common situation, these are termed nuclear cataracts. Unlike most cataracts, posterior subcapsular cataracts can develop rather quickly and affect vision more suddenly than either nuclear or cortical cataracts. Read more on the types of cataracts on our Cataract Surgery Page. (Cataract Surgery)

 

What will happen if a cataract is left untreated?

 

Driving can be affected — which could be dangerous — and so can overall quality of life. Many people become legally blind from untreated cataracts, and cataracts can even cause total blindness if left untreated for long periods. If you’re tempted to put off your cataract surgery, discuss it with your eye doctor.

 

How fast does it progress?

 

Certain types of cataracts progress quite rapidly and cause cloudy vision within a few months. Fortunately, these are relatively uncommon. Most cataracts develop gradually and do not require surgery for many months or years. In some instances, surgery is not required.

 

Can you reverse cataracts without surgery?

 

Surgery to treat cataracts involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a synthetic new one. This procedure is safe and very effective.

 

How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?

 

Recovery takes place at home. Take it easy for the first two or three days after having cataract surgery. Start using the eye drops after removing the eye shield the day after your operation and continue to use them until you’re advised you can stop – they’ll usually be needed for four weeks.

 

Is cataract surgery serious?

 

All surgery involves some risk, so yes, it is serious. However, cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed type of eye surgery. Many cataract surgeons have several thousand procedures under their belt. Choosing a surgeon with this much experience will reduce the risk of something going wrong.

 

How is a cataract removed?

 

A small incision is made in the front surface of the eye with a scalpel or a laser. A circular hole is then cut in the front of the thin membrane (anterior capsule) that encloses the eye’s natural lens. Typically, the lens is then broken into smaller pieces with a laser or an ultrasonic device, so it can be more easily removed from the eye. Once the entire lens is removed, it is replaced with a clear implant called an intraocular lens (IOL) to restore vision. In most cases, the eye heals quickly after surgery without stitches. Today, several steps in cataract surgery can be performed with a computer-controlled laser instead of hand-held instruments.

 

What is a secondary cataract?

 

In a minority of cases (perhaps 20 to 30 percent), months or years after cataract surgery, the posterior portion of the lens capsule that is left inside the eye during surgery for safety reasons becomes hazy, causing vision to again become blurred. This “secondary cataract” (also called posterior capsular opacification) usually can be easily treated with a less invasive follow-up procedure called a YAG laser capsulotomy. In most cases, this 15-minute procedure effectively restores clear vision.

 

My grandfather had cataract surgery years ago, and he had to wear thick glasses afterward, is this still necessary?

 

Rarely does anyone have to wear thick, heavy eyeglasses after cataract surgery these days. Most modern cataract procedures replace your eye’s natural lens with an intraocular lens (IOL) that often can correct your distance vision to 20/20 without glasses or contact lenses.

In fact, premium multifocal IOLs and accommodating IOLs can even eliminate your need for reading glasses after cataract surgery. During your pre-op exam, ask your cataract surgeon for more details about how to reduce your need for glasses after surgery.

 

What are possible side-effects of cataract surgery?

 

As with any surgery, pain, infection, swelling and bleeding are possible, but very few people experience serious cataract surgery complications. In most cases, complications or side effects from the procedure can be successfully managed with medication or a follow-up procedure.

To reduce your risk for problems after cataract surgery, be sure to follow the instructions your surgeon gives you and report any unusual symptoms immediately.

 

Can I have cataract surgery after LASIK?

 

Yes, cataract surgery can be performed after LASIK. In fact, cataract surgery can be performed after any type of laser vision correction procedure. LASIK and other types of laser vision correction alter the curvature of the front surface of the eye (cornea). Therefore it’s helpful if you can give your cataract surgeon the records of your eye exams that were performed prior to your laser procedure.

Cataract surgery can be successfully performed without these pre-LASIK records. But they can give your cataract surgeon additional information to determine the best intraocular lens (IOL) power for an optimal visual outcome after your cataract surgery. 

 

Are you awake during cataract surgery?

 

Yes, typically you are awake during cataract surgery. This eliminates risks associated with general anaesthesia (being “put to sleep”) and enables your cataract surgeon to communicate with you during your procedure. If the idea of being awake during cataract surgery concerns you, fear not — you will be given oral medication before the procedure, so you are fully relaxed and feel no discomfort. You also may be given (or offered the choice of receiving) intravenous (IV) medication to help you remain calm and comfortable throughout the procedure. The medication typically makes it difficult for most patients to remember their experience in the surgical suite after the brief 10- to 15-minute procedure has been completed and they are in the recovery area. Within a short period of time after your procedure, you will be able to leave the surgery centre, but you cannot drive after surgery. You must have someone with you to drive you home. 

 

Does cataract surgery hurt?

 

There is little or no discomfort during cataract surgery. You will be awake during the procedure, but steps are taken before and during surgery, so you won’t feel any pain. In fact, it’s likely you won’t remember much of your cataract surgery, even though you are not “put under” general anaesthesia like you are in major surgical procedures. Some people prolong their decision to have cataract surgery due to worry that the procedure will be painful. When you arrive on your day of surgery, you typically will be given a mild sedative to help you relax. Also, aesthetic (numbing) eye drops are applied to your eye to prevent discomfort. In some cases, you may receive additional medication intravenously during surgery to ensure you remain comfortable, and your surgeon will ask you how you are feeling throughout the procedure. Medications used before and during your cataract procedure also might make it hard for you to remember what happened during surgery, even though you are awake the entire time. As your medications wear off after the procedure, you might feel some minor eye discomfort. If so, this typically is mild and can be managed with short-term use of over-the-counter pain medication. You will be given advice on how to handle any post-surgical discomfort before you leave the surgery centre.