Every human is born with a crystalline lens inside their eye that operates just like the lens in a pair of glasses.
As we age, this clear lens slowly becomes denser, thicker and cloudier over years or even decades. When a clear lens becomes cloudy it is called a “cataract.” As a cataract progresses, distance vision becomes blurrier, colors may seem muted, and driving may be difficult because of glare and bright lights.
So when is the right time to remove a cataract? I tell my patients that the cataract is “ready” when you are bothered by your symptoms.
- Is the cataract impacting your life?
- Have you reduced or stopped driving at night?
- Do you need bright lights to read or see things clearly?
With traditional cataract surgery, your surgeon creates a small incision in your cornea by hand with a scalpel.
They then insert a small instrument through this opening behind your pupil where the eye’s lens sits in a capsule. Your surgeon creates a round opening in the capsule and inserts a pen-shaped probe that applies sound waves to break up and remove the cataract. They then replace your lens with an artificial intraocular lens.
With laser-assisted cataract surgery, a camera/ultrasound device is placed over your eye to map its surface and gather information about your lens.
The device sends the results to a computer that programs the laser with the exact location, size and depth for incisions. The surgeon may use the laser to make the corneal incision and the opening in the capsule. An ultrasound probe breaks the cataract into pieces and removes it. The surgeon then puts the artificial intraocular lens in your eye.
Using a laser allows the surgeon to make precise incisions in less time. It can improve accuracy and consistency. In some cases, the laser can provide more correction than traditional surgery.
The recovery time for traditional and laser-assisted cataract surgery is the same.
Some people can see clearly almost immediately. Others may find their vision clears within a week or two. It takes about three months to fully recover from cataract surgery.
However, studies do not show that laser surgery has fewer complications or better outcomes than traditional surgery.
Medicare guidelines determine who is eligible to get laser surgery.
Patients with astigmatism can be offered laser-assisted surgery, although most insurance plans do not cover the cost.
A thorough eye exam by your ophthalmologist can determine which option is best for you.
Technology has revolutionized cataract removal. Surgery today is very different from what your parents or grandparents experienced.
Better sight, glare-free vision and more enjoyment of your favorite activities can be a 15-minute surgery away.