Cataract refers to the white film-like substance the clouds the lens of the eye. It significantly affects the vision of the patient, and is responsible for over half of the world blindness, according to the World Health Organization. As of 2010, 51% of world blindness amounts to 20 million people.
Cataract is normally associated with the aging process, although the disease can also be inborn, or a byproduct of an eye injury or trauma, inflammation, or similar eye diseases. Having cataract does not necessarily equate to blindness; the film can be surgically removed so that patients can see normally again. The surgery is deemed very effective in restoring sight and is usually performed on an outpatient basis. It is a common surgical procedure and is generally safe. However, there are some limitations in some countries so that the patients do not have access to this surgery or similar eye care.
If you have cataract or know someone who does, here’s what you need to know about treating this disease.
There are instances when cataract surgery is not suggested to patients, particularly when their vision is not obscured. If it does the not hamper your vision or if you can still go about your routine without difficulty, then you can go on for years without needing cataract surgery. Doctors would only suggest that you get surgery if the cloudy matter is already limiting your vision and therefore your quality of life, or if you have another eye disease and the cataract is hindering your treatment.
That being said, cataract treatment is usually performed in two methods: traditional surgery or laser cataract surgery.
Traditional Cataract Surgery
Traditional cataract surgery is a common and generally safe procedure with minimal complications. Prior to the surgery, you may be asked to fast for several hours, or to put eye drops in your eyes two days before the surgery to prevent infection.
There are two ways traditional cataract surgery is performed: through phacoemulsification or extracapsular cataract extraction. Regardless of the procedure, the surgery is normally on an outpatient basis and takes about 60 minutes to perform. To prepare you for the surgery, the doctor will use eyedrops to dilate your pupil. Then, you’ll be given local anesthesia and a sedative to help you relax. Some people tend to fall asleep during the procedure; others remain awake, but groggy. Nevertheless, the anesthesia will ensure you don’t feel pain.
A. Phacoemulsification – In this procedure, your doctor would make a tiny incision in your cornea or the front of your eye, and will insert a minute needle-thin probe into the lens where the cataract has formed. This probe will transmit ultrasound waves to break up the cataract, and will then draw out these fragments. A tiny stitch may or may not be necessary to close the incision.
B. Extracapsular Cataract Extraction – In this procedure, your doctor will make a bigger incision and will surgically remove the front portion of your lens, as well as the cataract, by using surgical tools. Since the incision in this procedure is larger than in the previous one, stitches are definitely needed to close this wound.
If you opted to go for the traditional route, following either of the procedures, your doctor will then apply an implant called intraocular lens (IOL), which is a clear artificial lens that will serve as the outer layer of your eye. This artificial lens is made up of acrylic, plastic, or silicone, and requires no maintenance or care. Eventually it is absorbed by your body and it becomes a permanent part of your eye.
There are many different kinds of IOLs, some of which can block ultraviolet light, while others can aid your vision if you have refraction errors. Consult your doctor on what kind of IOL is best for you.
Laser cataract surgery
On the other hand, laser cataract surgery is used to replace and to assist your doctor as he uses surgical tools. By utilizing this method, you are then assured of the precision and accuracy of each move your doctor makes, thereby significantly reducing the risk of human error.
In the traditional method, the doctor makes the incision using a diamond blade or a similar tool. The doctor would estimate where to place the incision, since it has to be strategically placed so as stitches would not be needed. By using laser technology, the surgeon is then able to make a precise and detailed surgical plan for the incision so that its depth and length in all planes would be shown in 3D. This increases accuracy and minimizes trauma to the eye.
Next, in traditional surgery, the doctor would then remove the front portion of the eye to access the cataract. This is performed by using a small needle or forceps to remove the capsule. By using laser cataract surgery, this part of the eye is removed by the laser, eradicating the need for the forceful removal of the small covering.
In phacoemulsification, the doctor would then use a needle to break the cataract and to suction it away. When you use laser cataract surgery, the laser softens the cataract to break it up. This reduces the time of the procedure.
Overall, choosing laser cataract surgery ensures that your surgery would be performed in a minimally invasive way, with more precision and accuracy. It reduces the risk of human error and shortens the length of the procedure, which also lessens your risk of infection. Unfortunately, choosing laser cataract surgery would mean more expenses, as it is significantly more expensive than the traditional surgery.
The traditional cataract surgery is generally a common procedure that is deemed by most doctors as safe and effective in treating cataract. If you are looking for a faster and more accurate procedure however, one that will give you peace of mind that the doctor wouldn’t accidentally cut off your entire eye, then you can opt to go for laser surgery.