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Cataract surgery: an overview of what's involved

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Cataract surgery is a common and highly successful procedure used to remove cataracts, which are clouding of the eye's natural lens, and replace the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). This surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis and is minimally invasive. Here's an overview of what is involved in cataract surgery.

1. Preoperative evaluation

Before the surgery, your ophthalmologist will assess the cataract's severity, your eye health, and your overall medical condition. They will also measure the physical dimensions of the eye to determine the strength of intraocular lens (IOL) to be used. 

2. Anaesthesia

Cataract surgery is usually performed with local anesthesia in the form of eye drops or an injection around the eye to numb the area. You will be awake during the procedure, but you may be given a mild sedative to help you relax.

3. Creating an incision

In most modern cataract surgeries, a small incision is made on the side of the cornea. This small incision typically doesn't require stitches and is self-sealing.

4. Phacoemulsification

During the surgery, an ultrasound device called a phacoemulsification probe is used to break up the cloudy lens and vacuum out the cataract fragments. This technique minimizes the size of the incision and speeds up recovery.

5. IOL implantation

After the cataract is removed, an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted into the eye through the same incision. The IOL is chosen based on your visual needs, and it can often correct your vision, reducing the need for glasses or contact lenses.

6. Closing the incision

In many cases, the incision is self-sealing and doesn't require sutures. The eye surgeon may use a temporary seal or allow the eye to naturally close.

7. Postoperative care

After the surgery, you may spend a short time in a recovery area to ensure that your eye pressure stabilizes and to monitor any immediate post-surgical effects.

You will be given prescription eye drops to prevent infection and manage inflammation, and you will be instructed on how to use them. It's essential to follow your surgeon's postoperative care instructions, including avoiding activities that may strain the eye, protecting it from injury, and attending follow-up appointments.

8. Visual recovery

Visual recovery is often rapid, and many people notice improved vision within a few days. However, it may take a few weeks for your vision to stabilize fully. At that point your optometrist will review your refractive status to determine what type and strength of glasses would benefit you most.

Cataract surgery is generally a very safe and effective procedure. It has a high success rate in improving vision and is known to provide long-lasting results.

Peter Walker
Partner Optometrist
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