A lot of questions revolve in the patient’s mind once he is diagnosed as having cataract. “Do I need to have cataract surgery? When should I have the cataract surgery? How much time does the surgery take? Is the surgery safe?” These are a few of the questions and concerns that we will try to answer in this cataract surgery FAQ, so let’s begin.
- Do I need to have cataract surgery?
This might be the most frequently asked question. In fact the need to have cataract surgery is totally dependent on the patient’s visual needs. A patient who has high visual demands, such as pilots, engineers, doctors, etc. will not be able to tolerate even a faint cataract. Meanwhile, a seventy years old grandma having a very dense cataract might be pleased by a pair of glasses that allows her to perform her usual daily activities, such as watching TV.
- When should I have a cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is an elective surgery. The time of undergoing the operation depends solely on the patient’s tolerance to the visual deterioration caused by the cataract and the general physical condition of the patient. This is usually when the patient starts to complain that his deteriorating vision is preventing him from doing his usual daily activities and enjoying his life.
- How much time does the surgery take?
Cataract surgery takes on average 10 to 20 minutes in straight forward cases. The time may increase according to the density of the cataract. As the density of the cataract increases, it needs more time to be fragmented and removed by the phaco probe.
- Is cataract surgery safe?
Cataract surgery is considered amongst the safest types of surgery there is, right now. The incidence of severe complications after surgery is minimal or almost nil. A study done by the American society for cataract and refractive surgery (ASCRS) found that the success rate of cataract surgeries exceeds 98%.
- Do I have to wait until the cataract becomes ripe?
No. You don’t have to torture yourself by waiting for the cataract to become ripe or to allow a decrease of your quality of life and vision. You can now have your cataract removed even if it is very faint, as long as it is annoying you and affecting your vision and quality of life. This has become true nowadays thanks to modern advances and technologies implemented in cataract surgery.
- Can the new intraocular lens treat astigmatism as well?
Yes, this is definitely possible thanks to a new genre of intraocular lenses called the “toric intraocular lenses” or simply the “torics”. Toric intraocular lenses allow patients to regain the clarity of vision which was diminished due to the presence of the cataract. It can also treat astigmatism so that patients won’t need to wear a spectacle prescription for astigmatism after surgery. Unfortunately, toric intraocular lenses are not covered by the umbrella of Medicare (or your own government’s healthcare program). You will need to pay the difference in costs out of your own pocket.
- What is the type of anesthesia that will be used in the surgery?
In most cases, the form of anesthesia applied is either local anesthesia with facial akinesia or topical anesthesia with sedation. In local anesthesia: the anesthetic is injected around the eye and in front of the ear on the same side of the eye that will be operated on. In topical anesthesia: anesthetic eye drops are instilled in the patient’s eye and the patient is given a sedative in order to keep him calm and not anxious throughout the surgery. In both methods, the patient is aware of what is going on and is able to talk to the surgeon and to obey his instructions.
- Would you apply stitches to my eye during operation?
This is determined by the type of surgical technique that will be used to remove cataract. In most cases phacoemulsification technique is used. This is the modern or standard method for removal of cataract. In this technique, the surgery is done through a very small (2 mm) self-sealing wound. There is no need for eye sutures in this technique.
- Would a previous refractive surgery affect the outcome of the cataract operation?
Previous refractive surgeries such as LASIK or PRK would definitely affect the outcome of the cataract surgery, rendering the results less accurate and less predictable. In order to increase the accuracy of the surgery you have to provide the surgeon with the corneal measurements that were done to the eye before the refractive surgery.
10. If I have any chronic disease, would this prevent me from having a cataract surgery?
No. But you will need a medical clearance from your physician stating that you are medically fit for surgery and that your chronic illness is under good control with medications.