What are cataracts?
Cataracts occur when our natural God-given lenses in the eyes become clouded and lose the clarity we had in younger life to become yellow or brown-tinted opaque. It’s a natural consequence of the aging process, but it can be accentuated by some steroid use, exposure to bright sunlight for extended periods of time, and some diseases like diabetes. Cataracts eventually reduce a person’s ability to see clearly.
How do I know if I have cataracts?
As cataracts reach advanced stages of opacity, you may begin to notice certain problems with your vision like cloudiness (you can’t “get your glasses clean – they’re hazy all the time”), glare at night, unable to see or read without a bright light, or trouble with seeing blue-tinted headlights. Colors may also seem less sharp or vibrant than they used to be. Overall, it may seem as if you’re looking through a foggy windshield that won’t clear or wax paper.
How are cataracts treated?
The only treatment for cataracts is to surgically remove the clouded natural lens and replace it with a new artificial lens. This artificial lens is also known as an implant or intraocular lens (IOL).
What is an IOL?
An IOL, an acronym for intraocular lens, is an artificial lens implant that replaces the natural lens. Without your natural lens, you’ll have no way of focusing. The implant solves that problem after lens removal during cataract surgery to restore the eye’s ability to focus. In fact, in many cases an IOL can enable patients to see better without glasses. And because an IOL also blocks ultraviolet light that could harm the macula, it may help prevent the development of macular degeneration. An IOL should last for the rest of the patient’s lifetime.
What are my choices for an IOL?
There are three types of IOLs offered by Hattiesburg Eye Clinic. The standard IOL, typically covered by insurance, corrects primarily for distance vision and is not effective if you have astigmatism (an imperfection in the curve of the eye). A Toric lens, on the other hand, can correct astigmatism as well as distance vision. Our third lens offering, the Tecnis Symfony® lens, also known as an extended depth of focus (EDOF) lens, can correct near, intermediate (for example, computer screen) and distance vision, as well as contain a Toric component to correct astigmatism. Many patients who receive the Symfony® lens report better vision now than when they were younger.
Can I have better vision after cataract surgery?
No question – better vision is the treatment goal of cataract surgery, and most people will have improved sight after surgery. Many patients don’t realize they have a cataract because its effects worsen gradually day by day –in effect, they become used to their impaired vision. But after undergoing surgery and IOL implantation, many are surprised by the immediate change and often say they see a “different world.” Perhaps the most common observation refers to the change in color perception – many people say blues, greens and purples are beautifully vibrant and sharp afterward, or that their once “dingy” kitchen cabinets are now brilliantly “white.”
Could I get rid of my glasses after cataract surgery?
Yes, there’s always the potential for getting rid of glasses or decreasing their use after cataract surgery. We find the highest potential to get rid of glasses, though, in patients who receive a Toric or Symfony® lens with an estimated 95% of patients with these lens implants achieving “no glasses” status. While some patients may need some form of correction for certain distances, most people can function without glasses for the majority of their daily activities. Invariably, though, patients who choose a standard IOL and Toric (both of which only correct for distance vision) will most likely need corrective lenses for near or intermediate vision.
How are lasers used to treat cataracts?
There are two ways to surgically remove a cataract. The older traditional method requires the eye surgeon to manually perform all the steps necessary to remove the cataract, including making the incision, breaking the cataract into small pieces and vacuuming it out. The second, more recent method utilizes laser technology that performs most if not all of these surgical steps.
At Hattiesburg Eye Clinic, we use the Catalys® precision laser system, which utilizes a highly precise Femtosecond (or Femto) laser. The laser images the eye about 10,000 times a second to create a virtual image of the eye with precise measurements. The laser then uses those measurements to make all the incisions for the surgeon and then breaks the cataract apart with less time and energy than the manual approach. Once the cataract is completely removed, we can implant the new lens with much less energy and trauma to the eye than conventional surgery.
How is the Catalys® precision laser system different from other laser systems used for cataracts?
Catalys® is the only surgical laser system designed from the ground up for cataract surgery. Other systems on the market are often adapted from Lasik procedures and may use a different type of laser. As a cataract-specific system, Catalys® is very accurate and precise: it can do in thirty seconds what a surgeon manually performing could in three to four minutes. The procedure is efficient, quick – about 5 to 7 minutes from start to finish –and painless. Patients undergoing the procedure are not put to sleep under general anesthesia but given a local, topical anesthetic.
Does cataract surgery require a hospital stay?
No, we perform cataract procedures now on an out-patient basis. In fact, Hattiesburg Eye Clinic has its own Medicare-approved surgical center, Hattiesburg Eye Clinic ASC, dedicated to all our opthalmic surgical procedures including cataract surgery.
Can you perform both eyes at the same time?
No, they’re usually performed 2 to 7 days apart depending on the patient’s schedule. This is primarily due to current Medicare and insurance rules, which don’t allow for both eyes to undergo cataract surgery at the same time.
How long is the recuperation period after cataract surgery?
Most people are able to see clearly immediately after surgery, with continuing improvements in focal sharpness over several hours or days. Discomfort is usually limited to a burning or stinging sensation afterward. Most patients can return to normal activities within twenty-four hours, but we advise them to avoid any that stir up dirt or dust, or cause water in the eyes (like lawn mowing or swimming) for about a week to minimize the risk of infection.
– Answers provided by: David Richardson, M.D.
Symptoms of cataracts:
As cataracts develop within the eye, you may increasingly notice the following symptoms:
- Decreasing vision with age
- Blurred or double vision
- Seeing halos around bright lights
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Vision that worsens in sunlight
- Difficulty distinguishing colors
- Poor depth perception
- Frequent prescription changes for glasses
- Difficulty reading
Your eye doctor can perform a contrast sensitivity test to determine how much your vision has been affected by a cataract. But typically, when decreased vision affects your everyday activities or hobbies, a cataract should be treated.
Currently there is no medical treatment to reverse or prevent the development of cataracts. Once they form, the only one way to achieve clear vision again is through cataract surgery to remove the clouded natural lens and the insertion of an artificial lens known as an IOL (Intraocular Lens). Depending on the type of IOL used, a number of patients may not even need glasses even if they wore them before the surgery.
Get in touch with us:
To learn more about cataract treatment at Hattiesburg Eye Clinic, visit our page about our new Catalys® Precision Laser System. You can also visit our Contact Us page or call us at 1-800-624-8254 if you have a specific question. You can also use either method to request an appointment with an HEC professional at one of our convenient Mississippi locations in Hattiesburg, Columbia or Laurel.