What’s it Like to Get Cataract Surgery?

It’s been 273 years since French surgeon Jacques Daviel introduced a “new” surgical treatment for cataracts. The biggest difference between now and then is the rate of success and quick recovery possible with today’s technology and surgical expertise.

Daviel’s procedure and an even older form of cataract removal called “couching” offered an overall success rate of 50% or less, with a high risk of postsurgical infection and other sight-threatening complications, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

Today’s nearly risk-free version has a success rate of 98% or higher and is considered one of the most effective treatments in all of medicine.

At University Ophthalmology in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, Illinois, our team of board-certified ophthalmologists specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide variety of conditions that affect your vision and eye health, including cataracts. We use some of the most sophisticated diagnostic technology and surgical techniques available.

We’re happy to provide information about what it’s like to get cataract surgery in the 21st Century versus what was considered revolutionary in 1747.

What exactly are cataracts?

The natural lens of your eye is transparent so that it can focus light passing through your pupil onto the light-sensitive tissue (retina) at the back of the inner eye. 

The retina transforms the light patterns into neural signals that it sends to your brain via the optic nerve. The brain interprets and translates these signals into the images you see.

A cataract occurs when natural proteins in the lens break down and start to clump together. Most often due to aging and starting at about age 40, this process creates cloudiness and thickening of the lens. 

Much like frost buildup on a window, cataracts prevent you from seeing clearly. The visual impairment worsens as the condition advances.

Do I need surgery for cataracts?

Visual changes associated with cataracts are generally very subtle at first and may not impact your sight significantly enough to require surgery for some time.   

When changes in your eyeglasses prescription or magnifying lenses for reading no longer provide enough assistance or cataracts begin to interfere with your quality of life, the only effective treatment for a cataract is surgery to remove the lens.

What happens during cataract surgery?

There are a couple of options for cataract surgery, which involves removing the clouded lens. 

In most cases, the natural lens is replaced with a clear artificial lens that’s called an intraocular lens. It’s positioned in the same place as your natural lens and remains a permanent part of your eye.

Patient preference or, rarely, another eye problem may prevent the use of an artificial lens. In these cases, once your natural lens is surgically removed your ophthalmologist can correct your vision with eyeglasses or contact lenses.

What happens after cataract surgery?

In the past, cataract surgery required several days in the hospital and many weeks of healing time. Today’s cataract surgery is an in-office procedure that typically takes less than an hour and only requires a few days for healing.

You can generally expect to be discharged home with detailed aftercare instructions after about an hour in recovery at our office. 

Most patients resume nearly normal activities the next day, apart from heavy lifting and strenuous exercise until healing is complete.  

For more information about cataract surgery and all your eyecare needs, schedule a visit at University Ophthalmology. Call the office or request an appointment online today.

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