What is a cataract?
A cataract causes poor vision and can ultimately result in blindness if not removed. In the early stages, patients complain of vision that is a little fuzzy or blurred. This is because the eye’s natural crystalline lens is becoming cloudy, or opaque. As it grows, so does the list of symptoms, including foggy vision, faded colors, problems with glare, difficulty seeing television, and feeling as though you are looking through a veil or film. As symptoms advance, many people with report needing to change their glasses prescription frequently, especially for stronger lenses.
What is Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is one of the most successful surgical procedures performed today in the United States. Chicago ophthalmologist Dr. Stuart Sondheimer has been on the leading edge, offering the newest technology of this microsurgical procedure as it has evolved. He has performed many thousands of cataract removals and insertions of intraocular lenses to restore clear, sharp vision for patients.
Candidates for Cataract Surgery
A person who is debilitated may not require cataract surgery despite having a substantial cataract. The decision whether or not to have surgery should depend on the degree of difficulty that a person has with important visual needs. The best predictor of how much a cataract will progress over the next 6 months is how much it progressed over the last 6 months. Usually, it will progress a similar amount as it did in the previous period.
Cataract Treatment Options
Patients can choose to have surgery on one or both eyes. However, if a large amount of nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism is corrected in the first eye’s surgery, there may be an imbalance in the two eyes. The best way to treat this is by having the surgery on the second eye. If the vision impairment is severe in both eyes, then the second eye is usually treated surgically. Multifocal IOL and many toric IOL patients choose to have surgery on the second eye. Younger patients and patients with a significant cataract in only one eye, often choose to have cataract surgery on one eye. Traumatic cataracts are usually treated with surgery only on the affected eye. Drug-induced cataracts, usually caused by corticosteroids, sometimes require bilateral surgery and sometimes only need cataract surgery on one eye.
After having cataract surgery on the first eye, some patients choose to quickly have the other eye treated. Other patients decide that they are happy seeing without having an operation on the second eye. Sometimes when a nearsighted patient has the first eye corrected to see well in the distance without glasses, he or she may enjoy seeing well with the unoperated eye for near. In this way, he or she may decide not to have the second eye operated on and enjoy monovision, seeing well at near and far without glasses. Dr. Sondheimer helps his patients determine whether it is in their best interest to have cataract surgery on one or both eyes. Sometimes their decision may change after having surgery on the first eye.
Cataract Surgery Procedure
Dr. Sondheimer is one of the most sought after laser eye surgeons in addition to helping many cataract patients with their vision needs. To start, Dr. Sondheimer uses numbing drops in the eye to anesthetize it for patient comfort. There are no uncomfortable shots or needles. Then, he makes a carefully constructed incision and fragments the cloudy lens of the eye using ultrasound waves. Next, he gently vacuums the fragmented cataract away and inserts a new intraocular lens. Since there is a specially constructed incision, there is generally no need for stitches, and the incision is left to heal naturally. Patients may return to most normal activities almost immediately.
What are the anesthesia options during cataract surgery?
Patients will need to be awake during the procedure. That sounds scary, but it’s not. The procedure takes only about 10 minutes. Most patients don’t need anything other than a mild sedative to relax them along with the anesthetic eye drops. However, some patients may also choose to have light intravenous anesthetic. This is usually only required for patients with a high level of anxiety.
Alternative Cataract Treatments
Will I need glasses after cataract surgery?
Following cataract surgery, many patients don’t need glasses for most activities. Nearsightedness (blurriness in the distance without glasses), farsightedness (causing blurriness in reading and distance without glasses), astigmatism (a distortion of vision caused by multiple planes of focus at the same distance), and presbyopia (the need for reading glasses) can all be treated with cataract surgery. However, glasses or other optical correction, such as contact lenses, might be required to see adequately. Patients can choose to not have their nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or presbyopia treated when they have cataract surgery.
Will my vision be blurry after cataract surgery?
Immediately after surgery, patients will need to wear an eye patch. Additionally, Dr. Sondheimer will give you a protective shield to wear when sleeping for several days. When you remove the patch initially, your vision may be blurry, cloudy, or distorted. This is no cause for alarm as it is completely normal, your eye will adapt to the removal of the cataract and the new intraocular lens that has replaced it. Many patients report clear vision within several hours after their surgery. However, people heal at different rates, and you may need one or two weeks before you see images in sharp focus.
Is cataract surgery safe?
Cataract surgery is very safe for over 99% of patients. Some patients will see poorly after cataract surgery but blindness rarely occurs from cataract surgery.
Is cataract surgery painful?
This is little or no discomfort during cataract surgery. When you arrive, we’ll give you a mild sedative to relax you. Before the procedure, we place anesthetic eye drops in your eye so you don’t feel a thing.
Cataract Surgery Patient Testimonial
Cataract Surgery Recovery
Cataract surgery recovery is usually short and not difficult. This surgery takes only around 10 minutes. Immediately after surgery, you’ll rest in our recovery area for about 30 minutes to an hour to let the sedation or anesthesia wear off. Then, we place an eye patch over your eye. Someone will need to drive you home after you are released from the recovery area. When you leave we will give you the protective eye shield for sleeping and a pair of wraparound sunglasses to protect your eye from sunlight or glare.
As mentioned above, your vision may initially be blurry or cloudy when you take your eye patch off. This will pass either within a few hours or it can take a week or more to attain clear vision. Your eye will likely itch and have some slight discomfort, but it’s important not to rub or exert any pressure on the treated eye. Patients cannot do any heavy lifting, as it puts pressure on the eyes. We provide eye drops to prevent inflammation and infection and to control eye pressure.
Full healing can take up to two months, but because we perform cataract surgery on only one eye at a time, daily activities can be resumed in a few days. Most patients can return to work the day after having surgery. Many patients need to wear eyeglasses, at least for some tasks, after their surgery. If both eyes have cataracts, we will schedule the second eye for surgery one or two months after the first.