Millions of Americans must contend with cataracts, and the odds of you contracting them will only increase as you grow older. Deciding when to have surgery is something that nearly every cataract patient will have to deal with at one point or another. Perhaps you too are wondering if and when you should have surgery. In that case, the following information will prove very helpful.
Cataracts result from a build-up of protein in the lens of your eye. This produces a cloudy coating that prevents light from passing through properly. As a result, you may notice blurry vision or require more light than normal in order to see clearly.
People of any age can develop cataracts. In fact, babies may sometimes develop congenital cataracts while still in the womb. Even so, cataracts are most common among those age 60 or older. Furthermore, your odds of experiencing cataracts will only increase as you grow older.
It’s possible to have a cataract in only one eye. However, most people will experience cataracts in both eyes simultaneously. In the beginning stages, your cataracts may cause only minor issues. For example, you may have more difficulty reading fine print or experience blurred vision on occasion. Those with cataracts often struggle with poor night vision, as well.
Changing your eyeglass prescription or adding a glare coating to an existing prescription will often alleviate symptoms. When that fails to work, you may need to consider cataract surgery instead.
Cataracts can make your eyes especially vulnerable to sunlight. So if you spend lots of time outdoors, you may have a hard time dealing with glare unless you undergo cataract surgery. In other words, you could need surgery sooner than someone who primarily stays indoors.
As cataracts progress, they can impede your ability to see objects such as stairs. Accordingly, you could need cataract surgery if you repeatedly stumble and fall due to poor vision.
What are the Risks of Cataract Surgery?
The ideal time for surgery varies from person to person. As such, you should consider how severe your cataracts are and then consult with an ophthalmologist when making a decision. Your physician will consider the condition of your optic nerve health as well as your overall health before recommending surgery.
Cataract surgery is a relatively minor procedure. However, you may want to put it off if you have another type of surgical procedure planned for the near future.
Advanced surgical procedures now make cataract surgery safer than ever before. Even so, there are a few risks you should be concerned with, including:
- Blurred vision
- Eye infection
- Inflammation and/or fluid buildup
- Extreme sensitivity to sunlight
Many of these symptoms improve on their own as the eye begins to heal. However, if you have severe or persistent symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately. Severe complications could arise if you fail to take timely action.
By far, the biggest benefit to having cataract surgery is improved vision. Many patients who undergo surgery find that they are no longer bothered by glare. Some are even able to see fine print without wearing their glasses or stop wearing glasses altogether.
Having better vision can greatly improve your quality of life. After having surgery, you might find that you are now able to drive at night or participate in activities you once had difficulty doing. Your risk of falling due to poor vision will be decreased, as well.
The fact that cataract surgery is safer than ever means that many seniors in their 80s and 90s are now considering it. So you should not feel as though you must put up with your cataracts simply because of your age.
Prior to surgery, your ophthalmologist will take measurements of your eye. This allows your doctor to choose an artificial lens that will properly fit your eye.
Your surgeon may request bloodwork, particularly if you have an underlying health condition. You will also be asked not to eat or drink anything for at least 12 hours leading up to your appointment.
How Painful is Cataract Surgery?
Numbing eye drops will be placed in your eye so that you will feel no discomfort whatsoever. Once you are numb, your surgeon will make a tiny slit in your eye in order to remove the lens. Next, the cataract itself is removed through a suctioning process.
With the cataract removed, your new, artificial lens will then be inserted. Tiny stitches are used to close the cut and permanently attach the lens to your eyeball. The entire procedure often takes less than ten minutes to perform.
Typically, two appointments are needed if you have cataracts in both eyes. That way, one eye will have a chance to fully heal before you have surgery on the other one.
How Long Does it Take to Heal After Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery no longer requires an extended recovery period. Consequently, there is no need to take an extended time off from work or worry about having someone help you around the house.
It will take some time for your eye to become fully adjusted to its new lens. For this reason, you will need to have someone drive you home from your appointment. In addition, you will likely be asked to avoid driving completely for about a week or so.
Your eye may feel sore and water more than usual for a few days. Prescription eye drops can help alleviate your discomfort. If provided, use them exactly as directed and do not share them with any other individual.
Some patients are given eye shields to wear while sleeping. This can provide additional protection to improve healing. If you are given an eye shield, do not stop wearing it just because your eye feels better. For maximum benefits, you’ll probably need to wear it for around a week or so.
It’s challenging to know when it’s the right time for cataract surgery. Knowing what to expect can help you and your ophthalmologist make that decision. Keep the above information in mind when coming up with a timeline that will work best for you.