For the majority of cases, surgery is the only cure. Modern cataract surgery is typically performed through a small incision. High-frequency ultrasound, called phacoemulsification, is used to break up the cloudy lens material, and a micro-vacuum removes it from the eye. A clear, artificial implant lens of appropriate power is placed inside the eye to provide focusing power. Today, no-stitch cataract surgery is performed whenever possible.
Before the procedure can begin the pupil is dilated, and the surgical area is prepared using a sterile cleanser. A topical anesthetic is then administered to the surface of the eye. An incision of 2.5 to 3 millimeters in length is then created at the junction of the cornea (the clear front of the eye) and the sclera (the white part of the eye).
After making the main incision, another dose of anesthetic may be administered inside the eye. The front part of the lens envelope, known as the lens capsule, is carefully opened, exposing the cataract. An ultrasonic needle pulverizes the cloudy cataract material while simultaneously vacuuming it from the eye.
Once all of the cataract material has been removed, a soft, folded, intraocular lens is then inserted through the original incision and placed into the lens capsule.
Once the lens is centered, the surgeon verifies that the eye is at a normal pressure and watertight. Under most circumstances, stitches (sutures) are not required to keep the incision sealed. The construction of the tiny surgical opening allows it to self-seal so that suturing is not necessary.
At the conclusion of the procedure, an antibiotic medicine is applied to the eye and a protective eye shield may be recommended. Recovery from surgery is generally very rapid and painless, with most patients achieving noticeably better vision within days of the procedure.
Patients are asked to use antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops for the first few weeks after surgery. It is wise to avoid strenuous activity for the first week after surgery. Patients should also refrain from eye rubbing.
Glasses are sometimes required after surgery to achieve the best possible vision. They are typically prescribed three to four weeks postoperatively. If both eyes are scheduled to have surgery within a few weeks of each other, glasses are usually prescribed following full recovery of the second eye.
Please click here for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about cataracts and the cataract surgery procedure.