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What Can I Expect During Cataract Surgery?

February 20, 2024

Cataracts are an extremely prevalent age-related condition. When they become advanced, they can severely affect your vision, making it difficult to see.

Luckily, there is a way to treat cataracts and restore your ability to see clearly. The solution is to have cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed procedures you can undergo. It's very low-risk and highly effective.

By eradicating your cataracts, cataract surgery can restore your vision and life. But what is getting cataract surgery like?

Keep reading to learn what you can expect during cataract surgery, from deciding to have cataract surgery to recovering from the procedure.

When to Have Cataract Surgery

Because cataracts develop so slowly, most patients don't need cataract surgery right after a cataract diagnosis. You may not realize you have cataracts until receiving this diagnosis.

Although that can seem unusual, it's not. It can take years for cataracts to develop enough to cause noticeable symptoms.

Most cataract surgeons recommend cataract surgery once your cataracts start affecting your quality of life. Can you no longer do simple tasks to care for yourself, like cooking dinner, laundry, or tidying up around the house?

Is your worsening vision making it challenging to do hobbies and things you once loved? These are often some signs that it's time to start considering cataract surgery.

Your ophthalmologist at Maryland Eye Associates will help you determine when your cataracts are interfering with your daily activities by monitoring their progress and helping you see just how your cataracts affect your vision. Once you decide to have cataract surgery, you'll be on your way to getting your vision back.

But having cataract surgery is about more than removing cataracts, although that's an essential component. Another part of the procedure involves choosing an intraocular lens to improve your vision after cataract surgery. Depending on the IOL you choose, you may be able to achieve better vision than before having cataracts.


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Deciding on an IOL

Cataract surgery removes your cataracts by removing the natural lens that they've formed on. Removing your natural lens would leave you without a lens, making it impossible to see clearly.

That's why cataract surgery also replaces your natural lens with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. An IOL is an artificial lens that allows you to see as well as you could with your natural lens, if not better.

The standard IOL option is a simple monofocal lens that can help you see up close or at a distance. But you'll need glasses to see at the opposite distance.

Premium IOLs, however, can help you see better and reduce or eliminate the need for other visual aids. They require an out-of-pocket expense, but they help patients see better at a range of distances, potentially giving you better vision than before cataracts.

When you decide it's time to have cataract surgery, you also need to choose what kind of IOL you want. Your eye doctor will make recommendations based on your lifestyle, visual goals after cataract surgery, and budgetary needs.

Preparing for Cataract Surgery

Once you schedule your procedure and your IOL is picked out, the next step is preparing for cataract surgery. Your ophthalmologist may prescribe you eye drops to take in the days leading up to surgery.

You may also get your prescription for eye drops after surgery to fill that prescription and have your eye drops ready to go. Many patients like to prepare for cataract surgery by having a few meals frozen ahead of time.

The last thing you want to deal with after any procedure is cooking. Having a few meals already made that you can pop into the oven will help your recovery start strong and allow you to rest and relax on the day of your procedure.

Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home once it's over. However, you can't drive yourself home, so you need to arrange a ride to and from the procedure.

Your ride can also pick up your prescription eye drops if you can only fill them after cataract surgery. Most patients receive clearance to drive after their first follow-up appointment. But until then, having a ride on hand can be helpful.


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What to Expect During Cataract Surgery

When you go in for your cataract surgery, you may receive a mild sedative to help you relax during the procedure. You'll remain awake during cataract surgery.

You'll receive numbing eye drops to ensure you won't feel any pain during the procedure. Once the eye drops take effect, you'll hardly be able to feel anything at all.

Once your eye is numbed and prepped, your cataract surgeon will create small incisions to access the lens capsule, which contains your natural lens. An ultrasonic instrument is then used to break apart the lens and suck out the pieces gently.

After removing the natural lens, your cataract surgeon will fold up your IOL and insert it into the lens capsule through the incisions. Once inside, it's carefully unfolded and positioned.

After making the necessary adjustments to position the IOL, your cataract surgery is complete. No stitches are needed as the small incisions will close on their own.

After Cataract Surgery

After cataract surgery, you can go home to rest and recover. Although cataract surgery is a surgical procedure, recovery from the procedure isn't very long.

Most patients only experience discomfort for a day or two. You'll need to take prescribed antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops to aid with healing.

You'll also need to take a few precautions to keep your eyes clean, like avoiding hot tubs and pools and refraining from eye makeup. If you have cataracts in both eyes, the second one will be removed once your first eye finishes healing.

Could it be time for cataract surgery? Learn more by requesting a cataract evaluation at Maryland Eye Associates in Prince Frederick, MD, now!