Understanding Cataract Surgery Options: How Long Does it Take?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural crystalline lens. This clouding can impair vision, particularly at night, resulting in blurred vision. However, a cataract is a relatively minor condition, and doctors can treat it with cataract surgery, one of the most commonly performed outpatient procedures performed today.

As a result of cataract surgery, your eye’s lens is removed and usually replaced with an artificial one. Most people’s eyes have clear lenses. Your vision is affected when the lens becomes cloudy due to a cataract.

An eye doctor (ophthalmologist) performs cataract surgery on an outpatient basis, which means there is no hospital admission following the procedure. These procedures are widely performed and generally considered safe.

During cataract surgery, you will be sedated with a calming drug and numbing eye drops and gel to ensure that you will not experience any discomfort during the short procedure.

When considering cataract surgery, it’s normal to have lots of questions. This guide can help by going over your options and giving you an overview of what each option entails.

Why Is Cataract Surgery Necessary?

Physicians perform cataract surgery to restore normal eyesight to people suffering from a clouded lens. As a result of cataracts, the vision can become blurry, and light can appear more glaringly. Your Newsom Eye physician may recommend cataract surgery if your vision makes it difficult for you to perform your daily activities.

According to a report in 2020 by the National Institute of Health, cataract surgery is one of the most successful clinical management options in the healthcare sector because it directly improves visual acuity and reduces mortality.

When should cataract surgery be performed?

It is crucial to consider the following factors when dealing with cataract removal:

  • Due to cataracts, do you find it challenging to carry out your everyday tasks?
  • Are you experiencing difficulties seeing at night or driving to work due to cataracts?
  • Do you find that reading or watching television is becoming more difficult because of cataracts?
  • Is it hard for you to cook, shop, do yard work, take medications, or climb stairs?
  • Under bright lights, is it challenging to see?
  • Does having cataracts affect your lifestyle?
  • Can you manage your cataracts problem with alternative methods?

Types of Cataract Procedures

Our Newsom Eye team of providers has performed thousands of refractive procedures to help patients enjoy their best vision. There are multiple ways of removing a cataract once you are advised to do the surgery by your ophthalmologist. While this guide is an overview of what is commonly expected, our Newsom Eye team will best advise you per your unique situation.

Phacoemulsification (small-incision cataract surgery)

This procedure is often referred to as ‘Phaco,’ and it is the most common technique for removing cataracts today. In most cases, the procedure takes no more than 30 minutes. This can be achieved with only minimal sedation, such as local anesthesia (administration of anesthetic to the eye) or topical anesthesia (applying numbing drops over the eye).

An opening needs to be made through the lens’s membrane to allow the cataract procedure to take place. Next, a small ultrasonic probe is inserted into the space to smash up the cloudy lens into tiny pieces. Sound waves act as little, microscopic hammers to break up the cloudy lens. Suction is then accomplished through an attachment on the probe tip.

Following the removal of the lens particles, an intraocular lens implant, commonly known as an IOL, is implanted into the eye. An ophthalmologist inserts the IOL through a small corneal incision using a hollowed-out tube.

Extracapsular lens surgery

Essentially, this is the procedure for cataracts that have advanced to the point where they are too dense for phacoemulsification (the process of breaking the cataract into tiny fragments by breaking it down or dissolving it), or it is not possible to use phacoemulsification for another reason.

A slightly larger incision is needed for this method of removing cataracts to prevent fragmentation of the cataract within the eye. The artificial lens (IOL) is placed in the same capsular bag as with phacoemulsification.

It takes many sutures to close the relatively larger wound, resulting in slower healing and a reduced ability to see.

Numbing medication is injected around the eye to initiate this cataract removal method. It is also necessary to wear a patch after undergoing this procedure.

Cataract surgery using an intracapsular approach

This method of cataract removal is rarely used today but may still be helpful in certain situations. It requires a larger incision to remove the entire lens and surrounding capsule than extracapsular surgery. Furthermore, the intraocular lens (IOL) is located in a different position during this surgical procedure, directly in front of the eyes’ iris.

Which Intraocular Lenses Are Available to me?

You only have one opportunity to select the lens to improve your quality of life and provide you with clear eyesight. Ask your eye doctor to discuss all your options to make an informed decision and determine the best course of action.

  • Monofocal lenses can correct your vision at a distance and close range. The choice is yours. It may be desirable to correct distant vision so that you can drive without glasses but wear glasses when working at close range. Alternatively, you might choose to improve your near vision while wearing distance glasses.
  • Toric lenses reduce your astigmatism and improve your vision.
  • Lenses that treat presbyopia can correct vision both near and far. These types of lenses are called multi-focal or extended-depth-of-focus lenses. People who undergo cataract surgery will require less distance and reading glasses afterward.
  • Light Adjustable Lenses are the only lenses available today that allow you to design, trial, and customize your vision after cataract surgery. This adjustability takes cataract surgery to the next level by giving you a lens customized specifically for your eyes.  

What is the average length of time it takes to have cataract surgery?

Depending on the type of cataract you have, the surgery itself should take 10 to 30 minutes. The surgery is done under anesthesia and is painless. You can expect to spend a total of 30 minutes following your surgery to recover from the sedative. 

If I Undergo Surgery, What Should I Expect?

You will likely notice that colors appear brighter within a few hours of surgery due to the removal of the cloudy lens. The first few days are likely to be blurry, and you may experience some light sensitivity. It is not uncommon to experience dryness, itching, burning, or red eyes. Most of these symptoms disappear within a few days.

Our Newsom Eye staff will treat any inflammation, infection, or high eye pressure with eye drops or medications. At night you will protect the operated eye with an eye shield. Your ophthalmologist will also schedule follow-up appointments to monitor the progress of your recovery. You will require an eye examination one month following your surgery to receive new eyeglasses.

Possible complications following cataract surgery

In 2020, Harvard Health Publishing reported that 97% to 98% of all cataract procedures that an experienced surgeon performs result in success through phacoemulsification.

Because anyone suffering from cataracts can have various underlying health conditions, your ophthalmologist will discuss the specific potential complications associated with the cataract procedure that is most appropriate for you.

Some of the most common cataract surgery complications include: 

  • Chronic inflammation 
  • Elevated intraocular pressure (also called ocular hypertension) 
  • Cystoid macular edema (swelling of the retina at the back of the eye)
  • Detachment of the retina

How Long Does Cataract Surgery Recovery Take?

As a result of surgery, recovery from the procedure is also one of the most critical aspects, particularly the time necessary to restore vision.

In the first few days following cataract surgery, you should see your ophthalmologist, followed by a follow-up visit within a short time. Your physician will prescribe specific kinds of eye drops to control inflammation and prevent infection.

Within a couple of days after surgery, most patients observe an improvement in their vision, allowing them to resume most of their daily activities, including work. You must, however, see your doctor for post-operative appointments to ensure that there are no complications with your eye(s).

Patients can usually return to regular activity after a few days of receiving treatment. Once your vision stabilizes, your doctor might fit you with glasses (if necessary). Your intraocular lens implant also contributes to this.

Schedule an appointment today

Learn more about the best cataract treatment for you by scheduling a consultation at Newsom Eye. You deserve NEWSOM EYES!

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