Cataract FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

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Cataract FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Table of Contents

  1. What is a cataract?

  2. When do they need to be treated?

  3. How is cataract surgery done?

  4. Are there any shots?

  5. Is there any pain?

  6. What is the benefit of small incision surgery?

  7. What are the results of cataract surgery?

  8. When can I get my new glasses prescription?

  9. Can the cataract come back?

  10. How does an after cataract appear?

  11. What can be done if an after cataract comes back?

  12. How long does the Nd-YAG procedure take?

What is a cataract?


A cataract occurs when the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. As the cataract develops, the haziness no longer allows the lens to focus light on the back of the eye. This unfocused light causes vision to look blurry or distorted. The development of cataracts has been associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Cataracts are particularly prevalent in persons who spend a lot of time in the sun, such as fishermen. There is nothing you can do to prevent the formation of cataracts.

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When do they need to be treated?


Treatment is needed when decreased vision affects your everyday activities or hobbies. To determine how much your vision is decreased, your doctor should screen you with a new test called contrast sensitivity. Contrast sensitivity determines how much your everyday vision has been affected by the cataract.

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How is cataract surgery done?


Cataract surgery, in which the natural cloudy lens is removed, is now a very successful procedure. The most widely used technique is called phacoemulsification.  A very small incision is made and a tiny ultrasonic probe is used to break up the cataract and gently suction it away. A clear membrane is left in your eye where an intraocular lens (IOL) is placed . This IOL is necessary to compensate the focusing power of the natural lens that has been removed. With the insertion of an IOL, there is little need for thick cataract glasses and contact lenses that were used previously.

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Are there any shots?


Most of our surgery is done by the use of drop anesthesia.

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Is there any pain?


There is almost no pain. Patients remark after the procedure how easy it was for them and pain free. For the doctor, it is one of the more complex operations that is done. The most performed operation in Medicare is cataract surgery. That means ophthalmologists, as a group, are the most practiced surgeons in the country.

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What is the benefit of small incision surgery?


Small incision surgery has several benefits. The procedure is very quick, sometimes taking less than 20 minutes. Moreover, the recovery period is short. Patients are able to eat a light snack and drink immediately after the surgery.

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What are the results of cataract surgery?


The results of the surgery are almost immediate; most people notice an improvement in vision soon after surgery. You may still need glasses for some activities after the surgery. One of the major benefits is the lack of induced astigmatism. There can be fluctuations in vision for up to a month, but this is uncommon. It is one of the safest operations in medicine. (98% without predisposing factor can reach 20/40 or drivers license vision with best correction.

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When can I get my new glasses prescription?


The new prescription is given several weeks after the procedure.

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Can the cataract come back?


Since the lens capsule is left in the eye to support the lens implant (IOL), this capsule can cloud up. It is as if the lens were trying to regenerated itself, but it has no microscopic matrix to support natural growth. Little collections of lens epithelial cells can accumulate between the IOL and the lens capsule. They are like little opalescent balls or pearls, and, in fact, are call Elchnig Pearl after the man who first described them. Another name for the clouding of the lens capsule is "after cataract" because it occurs after the original cataract surgery. The incidence of  and after cataract occurring is 30%

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How does an after cataract appear?


It seems as if the cataract is returning, with sensitivity to light driving against headlights, or blurring of vision, or hazy vision.

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What can be done if an after cataract occurs?


We used to have to make a cut into the eye to open the capsule, called a discission. Now we use a Nd-YAG laser. The laser has a conated beam rather than a collimated beam so that the beam is dissipated within several millimeters in a "plasma shield" and doesn't go all the way back to the retina or brain and do damage there.

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How long does the Nd-YAG procedure take?


Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure. The pupil is dilated, and the procedure takes about 5 minutes. There are no restrictions afterward, except no rubbing the eye for several hours..

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David S. Pfoff
Copyright 2004  Pfoff Laser and Eye]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/12/08.