What Happens Before, During, and After Cataract Surgery

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, about half of all vision loss cases are caused by this disease. Cataract surgeries are usually done on an outpatient basis by a qualified eye care specialist (ophthalmologists).

Cataracts cause blurry vision and increase the glare from light sources. To fix this, the procedure includes replacing the (cloudy) lens of your eyes with artificial lenses. 

The practice of removing cataracts has dramatically improved over the years. Most people still wonder if cataract surgery is scary, but for uncomplicated cases, it could only take 15 mins. 

Nowadays, undergoing cataract surgery is nothing to be afraid of. Not only that the operation’s quick, but also because it’s one of the safest surgical procedures. 

The risks of complications are very low, while the surgeries’ success in improving your eye condition has a very high rate. Unlike what ancient civilizations practiced such as “couching” and “needling” of cataracts to break it down and help improve the patient’s eyesight.

Preparation For The Surgery

As long as you are following the post-operation instructions prescribed by your trusted vision care provider, everything should be fine. Your eye care provider would also schedule recommended follow-up visits for an assessment of your recovery. It usually takes 48hrs to make full recovery so make sure you have someone to drive you home after the procedure.

Official preparation starts at about a week even before the actual surgery. This is when your doctor conducts a comprehensive eye examination to determine the right kind of intraocular lenses (IOL) that best suits you. This would also be the right time to express other possible concerns to your doctor, like current medications and other health conditions.

On the night before the cataract surgery, you may be prescribed some eye drops or other medications, see to it that you follow your physician’s instructions. Absolutely no alcohol before the operation, so if you’re thinking of drinking to help you sleep and “relax” before the procedure, just ask your doctor for better options.

Eating and drinking are discouraged as well on the morning of your scheduled cataract surgery unless otherwise allowed by your doctor. Avoid wearing any make-up, perfume, cologne, or any cosmetics -especially facial ones- before going to the clinic. Some last-minute paperwork might be presented to be filled out. Aside from that, there might be a few more instructions and important details that your eye doctor would likely discuss so show-up there early. The procedure would then follow-suit, which is a surprisingly swift process.

During The Cataract Surgery

If a cataract is already present in your eye, surgery is the only way to clear your fogged up lenses. Don’t worry, cataract surgery doesn’t require the patient to stay in the hospital overnight, it takes less than an hour to perform.

Your eye care specialist administers sedatives intravenously to keep you calm during the whole procedure. You’ will most likely stay awake but might feel a bit groggy as well. Your eye doctor would proceed to dilate your pupil with some eye drops. From there, your doctor gives you local anesthesia to numb the area.

To restore the optimum vision of the affected eye, the clouded lens that had hardened over time is removed. The displaced lens would be replaced with a new IOL that’s fit for your vision. There are different types of cataract surgeries depending on the severity of your eye condition.

The most common procedure uses an ultrasound probe to emulsify or break up the cataract. This method is called phacoemulsification. A tiny incision is made in your cornea where a needle-like probe is inserted and is then directed to the area where the cataract has formed. 

The probe then uses high-frequency ultrasound waves to emulsify the cataract and the fragments are suctioned out. Your new artificial lens would then be positioned on your lens capsule, which is the very back end of your lens. The tiny incision would then be closed with the help of stitches. 

In more complicated cases, extracapsular extraction is required to correct ones’ eyesight. This procedure is less common and requires a larger incision than the first example of cataract surgery. The cloudy lens is removed and a clear IOL is placed on the now-empty lens capsule. The incision would also be closed with stitches. 

After undergoing any of these surgery methods, another set of eye drops may be administered depending on your doctor’s orders.

After A Cataract Surgery

Once the procedure has been successfully performed, you would be advised to rest in the resting area for 30 minutes. Use this time to contact someone who can drive you home if they weren’t with you during the surgery. You may also be discouraged from driving before being evaluated by your physician the day after.

A pair of post-operative sunglasses would be prescribed to protect your eyes from sunlight and dust. An eyepatch may be recommended when sleeping to help minimize the risk of getting infections. Certain medications and eye drops would be necessary to soothe irritation and discomfort in the eyes, which only lasts for a couple of days after the surgery. Some medications help prevent infections as well.

Strenuous activities should also be avoided and exercise should resume upon your doctor’s approval. Swimming and hot tubs are also discouraged as it may increase the risk of infection. Closing your eyes when bathing or showering is also advised so infections can be avoided.

You’ll most likely be able to do your regular chores after a day of the surgery, so it’s good to have someone who can help you out in the meantime. Your ophthalmologist may require several follow-up appointments for the proper evaluation of your recovery.

After a series of follow-up check-ups, your doctor would be able to determine whether your eyes are healed enough for assessment on prescription glasses. This occurs around 3 months after the surgery so your trusted eye care professional is sure about the acuity and health evaluation of your eyesight.


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