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What to Expect from Cataract Surgery

separator The lens of your eye is behind the iris and pupil. It works a lot like the lens of a camera, focusing light onto the retina, where images are recorded. The lens is also what allows us to see things up close and far away.

Normally, the lens of your eye is clear. When you have a cataract, proteins in the lens begin to clump together and cause cloudy vision. Often, cataracts begin to develop when people are in their 40s or 50s. But cataracts often aren’t very noticeable until they’ve grown. Generally, they begin to cause vision problems when you’re in your 60s or older.

What are the causes of cataracts?
Common causes of cataract include

  • Having diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Family history of cataract
  • Unprotected exposure to light, over a long term
  • Previous eye surgery

Symptoms of cataract
The following are the most common symptoms of cataract:

  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Poor night vision
  • Double vision in one eye
  • Needing a brighter light to read
  • Noticing that colors seem faded

Surgery is the treatment for cataracts
When a cataract reaches the point where it’s affecting your vision, it’s probably time for surgery. Regular visits to your ophthalmologist will help you determine when that time is for you.

During the procedure, the surgeon removes the lens in your eye and replaces it with a new one. The success rate for the surgery is 95 percent among people who have healthy retinas.

Cataract surgery is almost always done on an outpatient basis. You’ll receive a local anesthetic to numb your eye, which makes the surgery painless.

Some people feel a bit squeamish when they think about having eye surgery, especially when they know they’ll be awake during the procedure. But people who have the operation are usually pleasantly surprise.

We asked “Barbara,” who had the surgery two years ago when she was 70, to describe her experience. “What did it feel like to have cataract surgery?” we asked. “Nothing!” she said. There’s no pain. I was talking to my doctor the whole time. I felt kind of dreamy, and then it was over and I felt wide awake.”

Barbara says the surgery helped her vision, and, she says, “I have glaucoma, and my doctor thinks the cataract surgery helped lower the glaucoma pressure in my eye.”

Barbara suggests having the surgery for anyone who’s suffering from cloudy vision and whose doctor has recommended the procedure. “It’s no big deal at all,” she says. “It’s painless.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology; National Eye Institute.
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