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What You Need to Know About Cataracts

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What is a Cataract?  The natural lens is the structure located behind the iris or the colored part of the eye.  The lens focuses light onto the macula, the portion of the retina responsible for central vision.  Over time the natural lens becomes cloudy, hazy or not clear.  When the natural lens is no longer clear, it is called a cataract.  Cataracts can develop from normal aging, an eye injury, or prolonged use of certain medications.  Almost all individuals older than 65 years-old have cataracts.  The majority of cataracts cause significant visual symptoms.   Blurry vision, dulled vision, sensitivity to light, glare, and ghost images or haloes are all symptoms caused by cataracts.

How will cataract removal affect my vision?  The goal of cataract surgery is to correct the decreased vision and other symptoms that are caused by the cataract.  During the surgery, Dr. Alessio removes the cataract and replaces it with a new artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. Cataract surgery will not correct other causes of decreased vision, such as glaucoma, diabetes, or age-related macular degeneration.

Is cataract surgery right for me?  If you are unhappy with the quality of your vision and you are willing to have a surgery to make your vision better, you may benefit from cataract surgery.  Because cataracts develop slowly and usually in both eyes, you may not realize how much your vision has been affected. Once the lens in the eye becomes cloudy, hazy and discolored, the quality of your vision diminishes. This can affect reading, driving and your overall safety.  By having your cataract removed, you can expect improved vision and return to your normal daily activities soon after.  Most people will notice a significant enhancement in colors, contrast and clarity of images.  You may choose not to have your cataract removed, but your vision will likely continue to get worse.  The only treatment available for cataracts is surgical removal.

Is cataract surgery risky or dangerous?  Modern cataract and intraocular lens implant surgery is one of the miracles of modern medicine. The great majority are successful and patients are pleased with their improved vision.  Precautions are taken to prevent potential complications such as infection, inflammation, swelling and increased pressure in the eye.

Are cataracts removed with laser?  No. Cataracts can not be removed with laser.  However, a laser can be used during parts of the procedure, such as making the incision or correcting astigmatism.   Using the femtosecond laser usually can carry significant additional costs to the patient and have not been proven to improve patients’ results.  Dr. Alessio utilizes state of the art technology covered by your medical insurance called Torsional Phacoemulsification.  This technology uses water and ultrasound, to comfortably remove your cataract through very small, suture-less incisions.

What can I expect during cataract surgery?  Light sedation is used to relax you and your eye is numbed with a local anesthetic.  You may see a bright light and feel pressure in your eye.  State of the art cataract surgery is not painful. All precautions are taken to see that your experience is pleasant and comfortable.

How long will the surgery take?   On average, modern cataract surgery takes approximately 10-15 minutes of actual surgery time.  However, you will likely be at the surgical facility for around 2 hours.

What is the Intraocular Lens (IOL) made of?  Most IOLs are made of acrylic, a form a plastic.  Implant materials have been used for many years and have been exceptionally well tolerated by the tens of millions of patients. IOLs do not wear out or need replacement.  They will last multiple lifetimes.

What types of Intraocular Lenses (IOLs) are available?
Dr. Alessio and his staff will help you decide on the type of IOL this is right for you.  There are IOLs available to treat nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism.  There are two main categories of IOLs available.

1)    Monofocal IOLs – are single focus lenses that provide either near or distance vision.  Most medical insurance companies will cover the complete cost of this type of lens.

2)    Premium IOLs – are not covered by most medical insurance companies and therefore come with significant additional ‘out of pocket’ expense to the patient.  Premium IOLs attempt to decrease your dependence on glasses.

What is monovision?  Monovision is using one eye for near vision and the other eye for distance.  Monovision is a method used to reduce the need for glasses after surgery.  Monovision is a good option for someone who already uses monovision in the form of contacts or refractive surgery.

What are my restrictions after surgery?  Minimal. You can go out and resume most of your normal activities the day after surgery.  Most people are legal to drive the day following surgery.  Most people are back on the golf course or bowling within the first week.   However, it is recommended to avoid heavy lifting (over 30 pounds) and strenuous exercise the first 3 days after surgery.  Never rub or massage the eye in the immediate post-operative period.  Any particular activities that you are no sure about doing, should be cleared with Dr. Alessio.

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