Cataracts are essentially a part of aging, similar to wrinkles. Nearly 22 million Americans older than 40 have cataracts, and by age 80, half of us will have developed cataracts. And, again like wrinkles, cataracts tend to creep up on you because they develop gradually. Initially, issues related to cataracts such as nearsightedness can be corrected with glasses. Ultimately, though, laser-assisted cataract surgery is needed.
When Do I Need Cataract Surgery?
It’s difficult to know at what point cataracts have developed enough to require surgery. As a cataract progresses, night vision worsens, colors may appear duller, and other subtle changes occur. If you notice these or any other changes in your vision, it’s important to schedule an eye exam. In many cases, people wait until their sight has been greatly affected. That’s why we recommend comprehensive eye exams every 2 years once you turn 40 and annual exams after age 65. Not only can routine eye exams detect cataracts, but they can also identify other serious eye conditions such as glaucoma.
What Are Cataracts?
In simple terms, cataracts are the age-related clouding of the eye’s lens. There are different types of cataracts, but the symptoms are similar. Those symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Seeing halos
- Changes in night vision and depth perception
- Sensitivity to sunlight that causes decreased vision
- Difficulty distinguishing colors
- Difficulty reading
People with any of these symptoms should schedule an eye exam to determine the cause.
What Happens During Cataract Surgery?
Femtosecond laser cataract surgery—introduced to the Louisville, KY, area by Dr. Black’s Eye Associates—revolutionized the procedure. Before lasers were used in cataract surgery, which involves removing the eye’s clouded lens and replacing it with a clear synthetic lens, the procedure required patients to spend several days in the hospital. That was followed by a long recovery. Now, eye surgeons use local anesthesia for the outpatient procedure, and patients resume their normal lives within a couple of days. The procedure takes about 15 minutes.
At our practice, we use the FDA-approved LenSx® laser system, a bladeless technique that uses a computer-guided laser and gives our patients consistent and accurate results. Patients also have a choice when it comes to the replacement lens used, including so-called “lifestyle” lenses that can reduce—or even eliminate—the need for eyeglasses.
Is Cataract Surgery Painful?
Even though the number of patients who report discomfort during cataract surgery is very small—less than 10%—many patients have anxiety about any type of eye surgery. A local anesthetic is very effective at virtually eliminating discomfort during the procedure.
What Is Recovery Like After Cataract Surgery?
Recovery after cataract surgery typically takes about 24 hours. During that time it’s important to avoid lifting anything heavy. Patients should wear the protective eye shield provided by their eye doctor and sleep on their back. They also need to wait to wash their hair for at least 24 hours.
Is it Possible to Get Cataracts Again?
Cataracts can’t grow back after getting cataract surgery because they grow in the lens of your eye, which is removed during the procedure. Some people may develop a condition sometimes called “secondary cataracts,” which aren’t truly cataracts but a condition involving the synthetic lens reducing the amount of light that can enter. This can be treated fairly easily with laser surgery.
If you’re wondering if you have cataracts—or simply need to schedule an eye exam—you can contact us using the online form or by calling our main office at (812) 284-0660. We serve the entire Kentuckiana region, and you can see one of our talented eye doctors in Frankfort, Corydon, Louisville, or one of our many other convenient locations.