Tell Me About Cataracts and Cataract Surgery

My fiance’s got something new to deal with, as if the fire six weeks ago wasn’t enough. He has a cataract and is facing the prospect of surgery. He’s asked me to ask you to tell us anything you can on cataracts and the surgery for them. He thought they just removed whatever it was that was obscuring the lens, but it sound like they’re planning on removing the lens completely, instead. Has anyone here been through this? Does anyone have any information on it?

I was born with congenital cataracts and went through this twice as a teenager (once for each eye.)

My first bit of advice is: Talk to your ophthalmologist. A lot. (Also, learn how to spell “ophthalmologist.” It will impress them.) They will usually be happy to answer lots of questions – they’re going to be slicing your eyeball up and all – so take advantage of their knowledge.

A cataract is usually an overall fogging of the lens as a whole, so it’s not a matter of simply removing the obstruction. Today, what’s usually done is that the whole lens is removed and then replaced with a plastic implant. For adults this is done under local anesthesia, which sounds horrifying, but you will be pumped full of sedatives anyway and won’t really notice.

The actual incision in the eye is quite tiny, just a couple millimeters, and the new lens implants they use are designed to slide in folded up, and then unfold when they are in the lens sack. The incision is closed with microstitches which you can’t feel or see and as I recall they just sort of dissolve away. You’ll be on a regimen of antibiotic eyedrops for a while too. And you have to wear an eyepatch for a few days. (Be sure to practice your pirate voice.) But overall it is not a very traumatic experience. You’ll be out of the hospital the same day, and you’ll have to refrain from physical activity for a few weeks.

There has been a vast improvement in the procedure over the years. I had one done in each eye about five years apart, the recent one last year.

The remove the cataract and insert an artificial lens.

It is a piece of cake. Last one took all of 15 minutes for the actual surgery.

Beforehand they put him on a gurney, insert an IV and usually the anesthesiologist will talk to him. He wll be put to sleep for just a minute or two while they inject a local anesthetic, then after he awakes, they wheel him into the OR.

He will not see anything out of that eye, nor will he feel anything. Afterward, he will recover for a few minutes, then they let him go. Somebody else will have to drive.

No pain afterward, but it will take a while before he gets a new prescription of glasses. Then everything will look brighter and colors more vibrant.

Not to worry.

It’s an outpatient procedure, as routine as they get.
My landlady in Miami was about 80% blind on the right eye, awaiting surgery on the left, when I moved into her house ('95). And she drove like that! I made quite sure to learn to drive on cotton clouds so she’d let me do the driving, I may not have the best life ever but it’s mine and I intend to keep it. Getting the procedure slashed her power bill in half: she realized that it wasn’t that the weather had been real cloudy and misty for a long time, there was no need to keep all the lights on 24/7 - the mist had been in her eyes.
Grandma had cataracts surgery two years ago, at the tender age of 92; partial anesthesia (eyedrops). She now complains that when looking into a mirror there’s wrinkles that didn’t use to be there :stuck_out_tongue: The surgery had taken place at 11am; she went to bed sooner than usual, which in her case means before midnight, because she was feeling kind’a tired. She was fully recovered and bossying everybody around as usual by the next day.

My sister had it done about a month ago – no biggie. Process was as already described.

Good answers so far, just wanted to add something about a development that sometimes occurs.

In some cases, after the implant is placed, the posterior surface of the lens capsule turns cloudy and vision becomes blurred again. In this case they use a laser to burn a small hole in this capsule wall thus restoring clear vision. My wife had to have this done on each of her eyes about 1 year after the initial surgery. No big deal, just something to be aware of.

Also, if the surgeon does a good job of determining the correct prescription on the replacement lens, you might not need glasses after the surgery. My wife wore glasses most of the time before hand, now only wears them to read.

Some people are able to see perfectly right after surgery. In others, the brain has to relearn how to make sense of the information coming in. It took me several months to get the close vision right, though I could see distance well enough to drive. I got the bifocal implants.

The back of my lens capsules got cloudy and spotted, so I got the YAG laser posterior capsulotomy. That part requires no sedatives, only numbing drops. I sat facing the doc, chin here, forehead there. With the room lights off, I could see his eyes, a working light and a green “stare at this one” light. Click, click, click, for about 3 minutes, and it was over. No pain at all. He had cut a square hole behind the new lens, with the corners up,down, right, and left. When it was over, I could see more clearly right away.

He tested my vision last week, and I don’t need supplementary glasses at all. I can read the agate type in the sports section and stock listings with no trouble. :smiley: I was scared for weeks, but all is well, now.