It’s Cataract Awareness Month

Here’s everything you need to know about cataract surgery.

Cataracts are a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Cataract surgery, which involves the replacement of the cloudy lens, is one of the most common procedures in the country, with more than 3.5 million performed annually.

Thanks to medical advances, cataract surgery is safer and now provides better outcomes than ever. With this sophisticated technology, procedures can be customized to find the best fit for patients. But, it can be challenging to choose between the myriad of new options available.

It’s Cataract Awareness Month, which makes now the perfect time to review the signs of cataracts, the latest technology available for treatment and what to expect with surgery.

Signs You Need Surgery

“By age 80, more than half of Americans have been diagnosed with a cataract or have had cataract surgery,” says Rajesh K. Shetty, MD, ophthalmologist and CEO of Florida Eye Specialists. “However, many of my patients don’t realize that cataracts can begin to develop early in their 40s and 50s.”

Dr. Shetty says cataracts develop slowly and painlessly over time. In the early stages, symptoms may be so mild that patients don’t realize their vision is changing. But as a person ages, cataracts can grow to the point where they can get in the way of living an active, independent life.

“Cataracts can affect night vision, meaning you may not be able to drive home from work in the evening,” Dr. Shetty says. “As people continue to work later and later in life, this becomes a big problem for our patients.”

Those with advanced cataracts may also experience blurry vision, double vision, sensitivity to glare and light, and fading colors, and they may need to change their prescriptions for glasses or contacts more frequently.

Vision needs have become more demanding with advances in technology and today’s active adult lifestyle.

“Vision needs have changed a lot,” Dr. Shetty says. “We spend much more time looking at phones and other devices with our friends and family communicating with us constantly. We’re traveling more, looking at GPS, driving during dusk, dawn, rain and nighttime. We’re playing golf and reading. The demand for clear vision at all ages is the highest it’s ever been.”

Types of Surgery

If you are planning to have cataract surgery, there are two options to choose from: traditional and laser-assisted.

“Traditional cataract surgery is one of the most common and safest surgeries in the world,” Dr. Shetty says. He explains that one of the primary benefits to traditional cataract surgery is that most health insurance plans will cover at least part of the cost of the procedure.

However, Dr. Shetty says, traditional cataract surgery does have limitations. It cannot correct astigmatism, and patients who receive traditional cataract surgery will still need to wear glasses for intermediate and near vision.

Unlike traditional cataract surgery, where a scalpel is used to make an incision in the eye by hand, laser cataract surgery is guided by computer. The surface of the eye is mapped to tell the laser the exact location, size and depth for incisions. This results in a safer, gentler procedure.

The laser also creates a more precise and accurate outcome. Dr. Shetty says this allows eye surgeons to correct a range of vision problems – including astigmatism, farsightedness and nearsightedness – at the time of cataract surgery. This gives you the option to correct two conditions with one procedure, and reduces or possibly eliminates the need for glasses.

Dr. Shetty has had great experience with this procedure. Florida Eye Specialists was the first practice in Northeast Florida to offer laser cataract surgery to patients and has performed nearly 7,000 procedures to date.

Before and After Surgery

Prior to cataract surgery, Dr. Shetty says, your eye surgeon should walk you through the steps of the procedure to answer any questions that may come up. Some important questions to ask include what kind of cataract surgery is available to you and what kind of replacement, or intraocular lens (IOL), you can choose from.

“It can be hard for patients to remember the questions they should ask in the moment, so we recommend writing your questions out in advance and bringing them with you to the appointment,” Dr. Shetty says.

During the operation, you’ll be given a local anesthetic to numb the area around your eye. The sedation will make you feel a bit groggy afterward, so you’ll need someone to drive you home. Generally, cataract surgery patients do not experience any pain after surgery, Dr. Shetty says.

“There may be some itching or discomfort for the first few days, and you may need to wear an eye patch or protective shield on the day of surgery,” Dr. Shetty says. “Also, avoid bending at the waist or lifting heavy objects over five pounds for the first week after surgery.”

The recovery time is short. You will begin to see the results in your vision in the first few days and should make a full recovery within four to six weeks. Many patients report clear vision within several hours. But each person heals differently, according to Dr. Shetty, and you may need a week or two before you see images in their sharpest focus. Your recovery should be completed in about a month, when the eye is healed.

See Better Than Ever

Today, cataract surgery offers patients the opportunity to not only restore their vision, but to possibly see better than they ever have. It can reduce dependency on glasses and make daily activities such as reading and driving easy again.

“We do what we do because we can improve people’s lives,” Dr. Shetty says. “You lose so many faculties and abilities as you age – skills you didn’t realize you were losing, your energy, how fast you think and run. But here’s one area of your life you can actually improve upon. You can see better, function better and do things you haven’t done in years. These are truly phenomenal results.”

Eye surgeons recommend that patients aged 60 and older have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataracts, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and other vision disorders.

Article and photo submitted by Florida Eye Specialists.
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    • Florida Eye Specialists

      For almost 50 years, the dedicated eye care specialists at Florida Eye Specialists have been pioneers in new eye treatments, setting the standard for eye care in Florida. Their team is committed to advancing ophthalmology and ensuring bett... Read More

    • Rajesh K. Shetty, M.D.

      Rajesh K. Shetty, M.D., is a board-certified, double fellowship-trained ophthalmologist specializing in cataract and glaucoma surgeries. He is currently the CEO and Managing Partner of Florida Eye Specialists and the surgery center. Prior to fo... Read More