Cataract Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is a painless, cloudy area in the lens of the eye that blocks the passage of light to the retina, which causes vision impairment. Cataracts sometimes may remain small and may not be noticeable. They may not seriously affect vision, and some cataracts do not need to be removed. However, many cataracts grow larger or more dense over time, often causing severe vision changes. Globally cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, affecting 18 million people. Cataracts are even more significant as a cause of low vision affecting 62 million worldwide.
What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
Not all cataracts impair vision or affect daily living. But when they do, common symptoms include:
- Cloudy, fuzzy, foggy or filmy vision.
- Glare from lamps or the sun, which may be severe.
- Difficulty driving at night due to glare from headlights.
- Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription.
- Double vision.
- Second sight – temporary improvement in near vision (such as that needed for reading) in farsighted people.
- Difficulty performing daily activities because of vision problems.
Who Do Cataracts Affect?
Aging and exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause cataracts. People may also experience cataracts after an eye injury, as a result of eye disease, after the use of certain medications, or as a result of medical conditions such as diabetes. Genetics may be another risk factor for developing cataracts. People with a family history are more likely to develop them. The color of your eye may also contribute to the development of cataracts. People with darker-colored irises appear to have an increased risk of developing them.
How do I Avoid Cataracts?
- Have your vision checked regularly for early detection.
- Wear sunglasses with 100% UV Protection.
- Don’t smoke.
- Wear protective eye gear, when active, to avoid eye trauma.
- How Are Cataracts Treated?
- Cataracts are usually treated with surgery if vision problems are interfering with the person’s quality of life. Cataract surgery is very common and currently has the highest success rate of any surgical procedure. It involves removing the natural lens of the eye, which contains the cataract. The lens is then usually replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL) implant.
Is surgery the only treatment for cataracts?
Although stronger eyeglasses or brighter lighting may help relieve the symptoms of a cataract in its early stages, surgery is the only cure for cataracts. However, just because you have a cataract doesn’t mean that you have to have it removed. Cataract surgery only becomes necessary when you’re not happy with your vision and want to see better. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your vision.
Does cataract surgery hurt?
Thanks to numbing drops and medications to help you relax, the surgical procedure involves minimal discomfort.
Will I be asleep during cataract surgery?
Since cataract surgery does not take very long – often only 10-15 minutes or less – it’s unnecessary to put you completely asleep with general anesthesia. Instead, your surgeon will use a local/topical anesthetic to numb your eye, and you will remain awake during the procedure.
Who performs the procedure, a surgeon or a technician?
A surgeon will perform the procedure. There will also be a technician and nurse on-hand in the room to assist them.
I have cataracts in both eyes. Will the doctor treat both at the same time?
Typically, doctors perform surgery in the second eye one to three weeks after the first eye. All patients are different, though, so talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Patients typically spend only a few hours at the hospital or surgery center, and are allowed to go home the very same day.
How long after surgery until I’m able to see again?
Every patient and every eye is different, but most patients typically see well enough to drive only a day after surgery. Ask your doctor how quickly he or she expects you to recover.
How long until I can return to normal activities?
Most patients can resume basic activities like reading and watching TV the day after surgery, and can usually return to work within two to seven days. Doctors typically advise against any strenuous activity for two or more weeks. Results vary by patient, however, so ask your doctor what’s best for you.
After surgery, will I be able to drive at night?
Your ability to drive at night should be significantly improved once your cataract is removed. Patients with the AcrySof® IQ ReSTOR® IOL may notice a ring of light around headlights and other light sources. These halos are typically mild, rarely bothersome and tend to diminish with time.
Will I need glasses after cataract surgery?
This generally depends on what type of intraocular lens you elect to have implanted. Following cataract surgery, most patients with a traditional monofocal IOL do not need glasses or contacts for distance tasks, but still rely on reading glasses for close-up tasks. However, in the clinical trials of the AcrySof® IQ ReSTOR® multifocal IOL, three out of four patients reported never needing glasses after their surgery.
Can my cataract come back?
Once a cataract has been removed, it cannot return. However, over time, patients may notice that their vision has once again become cloudy. This condition, which can occur with any type of IOL, is known as a secondary cataract, or posterior capsular opacification (PCO). Secondary cataracts can be easily treated with a simple laser procedure performed in your doctor’s office.
Can the IOL be replaced if it doesn’t work properly?
Although it’s unlikely your implanted IOL won’t function properly, it can be replaced with a different one if necessary. Talk to your surgeon to learn how they would handle this situation.
Are there any precautions I should take after surgery?
Every patient is different, so be sure to ask your doctor for advice on caring for your eye after the procedure. Often, though, your doctor will simply ask you to refrain from rubbing your eye or engaging in any strenuous activity for a few weeks after surgery.
Who should I call if I have a problem after surgery?
Consult your doctor immediately if you have any issues, particularly if you experience decreased vision or pain.
How is the AcrySof® IQ ReSTOR® IOL different from monofocal lenses?
Traditional IOLs are monofocal – that is, they only focus at one distance. As a result, after surgery, you’ll likely need to continue wearing glasses for either near or distance vision, and sometimes for both. The AcrySof® IQ ReSTOR® IOL differs from traditional IOLs in that it is a multifocal lens that provides a full range of vision from near to far, decreasing your dependence on glasses at all distances.
What is the difference in cost between a traditional lens and the AcrySof® IQ ReSTOR® IOL?
Insurance policies vary, but Medicare, supplemental insurance and private insurance will typically cover a basic cataract surgery procedure with a conventional IOL. If, however, you decide to have an AcrySof® IQ ReSTOR® IOL implanted, there may be additional costs that are not covered by insurance or Medicare. If you’re interested in the added benefits of the AcrySof® IQ ReSTOR® IOL, you can elect to pay the difference. Contact your doctor’s office, or your primary insurance provider, for more information about your policy coverage.