Cataracts are an opacity or clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. This clear lens focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, which in turn sends information to the brain where it’s interpreted into the images we see. As the natural lens becomes cloudy, it inhibits or diminishes the passage of light to the retina, often leaving patients feeling as though they are looking through a frosted or “fogged” windshield. Colors may appear dull, and glare and halos around headlights often increase, causing night driving to become more challenging.
Cataracts are caused most commonly by the natural aging process, however metabolic changes, injury, various forms of radiation, toxic chemicals and certain drugs may contribute to the onset as well. As the leading cause of vision loss among adults age 60 and older, cataracts impair vision, making everyday activities increasingly difficult.
Patients often experience the following symptoms:
Glare, or sensitivity to light
Double vision in one eye
Frequent changes in his/her eyeglass prescription
Difficulty in reading in low light
Declining night vision
Fading or yellowing of colors
Concerned you may have Cataracts?
If you’re concerned you may be affected, we recommend scheduling an evaluation with one of our cataract specialists. If cataract surgery is indeed recommended, your surgeon will discuss your visual goals following the procedure. It’s possible you may be eligible for an upgraded intraocular lens or vision package if you wish to become less dependent upon glasses or contacts following the procedure.
To see if you’d be a likely candidate for one of our upgraded lenses or vision packages, you’re welcome to take advantage of our free online screening.
The first step in determining whether or not you have cataracts is to schedule an evaluation with one of our cataract removal specialists. This thorough examination typically involves the following:
A visual acuity test to measure clarity at various distances
Pupil dilation to examine the natural lens and retina for other eye problems
Tonometry, a standard procedure to measure fluid pressure inside the eye
Necessary testing to determine if the cataracts are developed enough to be removed
An A-Scan Ultrasound
Please bring a pair of sunglasses as you may be light-sensitive following dilation. Due to the amount of testing involved in this comprehensive evaluation, these appointments may take up to two or three hours.
If the vision is impaired to a certain degree and other requirements have been met, insurance companies will likely see cataract surgery as a covered benefit. This does vary depending on your specific insurance plan, so please check with your insurance carrier prior to your evaluation and surgery, to fully understand your benefits and coverage.
If surgery is recommended, an A-Scan will be ordered by the physician. This precise ultrasound measures the length and shape of the eye and formulates a recommendation for the lens implant power that will result in the best visual outcome for the patient.
Intraocular Lens Options
Discussing your visual goals following the surgery is an important discussion that occurs during the exam. With the removal of the natural lens, we have the opportunity to replace it with a variety of lenses and lens implant powers, offering a wide range of vision outcomes after.
Many patients opt for standard surgery, which simply means they are choosing a monofocal lens implant for the procedure. A monofocal lens offers one visual goal following the surgery.
For instance, patients who love to golf and want to see the ball as clearly as possible at long distances may choose a monofocal lens, set to correct as best the lens can, their distance vision. Since the monofocal lens can only correct one goal, this particular patient will need assistance in the near and intermediate-range, so they will likely be wearing reading glasses for near vision tasks.
Similarly, if a patient does a lot of needlework and wants to correct his/her vision the best they can in the near range, they will need to use glasses or some sort of correction for their distance vision.
Please keep in mind that these lenses can be chosen to correct whatever visual goal you prefer, but it’s never a guarantee that you’ll be correction-free at that distance. Even if the lens corrects your distance vision the best it can, it’s possible you’ll still need glasses or correction for your distance vision, depending on your desires and needs.
Minnesota Eye Consultants offers laser-based surgery as an option for our patients. This technology is used to create the initial incision and break up the eye’s natural clouded lens into small, soft fragments for easier removal.
Considering the out of pocket expenses for patients, we strive to offer technologies only if we can extend true value in patients’ outcomes. We do offer this procedure to our cataract patients, however, we don’t normally use this equipment for our standard cataract surgeries. Speak with your surgeon about whether laser-based cataract surgery is right for you.
What Happens During Surgery?
Surgery is a common, outpatient procedure that is typically performed in about 10-15 minutes, with the entire process taking only a few hours. Prior to surgery, patients are often administered anesthesia and medicated eye drops to minimize any discomfort during the operation. This routine procedure begins with your surgeon making a small incision using a tiny instrument (about the size of a pen tip) to access the clouded, natural lens. The natural, cloudy lens is broken up using high-frequency ultrasound and then gently removed by suction. At this point, an intraocular lens implant is placed and the procedure is complete. Thanks to the minimal incision, stitches are normally not required.
MonoVision can be a great option for patients interested in reducing their dependence on glasses for both near and far distances. Utilizing the same standard monofocal lens mentioned above, one eye will have a lens placed to correct distance vision, while the other eye will be corrected for near vision. Vision is a function of the brain, and not everyone is able to adapt to this vision correction. We recommend trying contact lenses first to ensure your brain can function and adapt to this type of modification.
Most insurance companies will cover the standard monofocal lens if they are covering the cataract procedure in general. Our premium vision options (or specialty intraocular lenses) are an out-of-pocket expense, not covered by insurance. However, the advanced technology lens implants can offer a wide spectrum of vision improvement including near, intermediate and far vision following surgery with less dependence on glasses. To learn more about these upgraded lenses, visit our intraocular lens options page.
Safety and Recovery
Surgery is considered one of the most popular and highly successful procedures, with improved vision occurring in over 90 percent of cases. In fact, a study by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery reported that more than 98 percent of patients had their vision successfully improved following surgery. Many patients report a vision that is even better than before they developed clouded lenses.
Not long ago, surgery required a hospital stay and was usually postponed as long as possible. Today, the procedure is performed on an out-patient basis and takes only 10 minutes or so. Patients are free to return home to rest in comfort and avoid the inconvenience and expense of a hospital stay.
During your recovery following Cataract Surgery:
Use your medicated eye drops as directed.
You may notice light sensitivity and excessive tearing for a few days.
Avoid prolonged bending or stooping for two days.
Refrain from lifting anything greater than 20 pounds for one week.
Avoid pools, saunas, hot tubs or any contaminated water for two weeks.
Refrain from wearing eye makeup for two weeks.
Daily activities such as driving and reading can usually be resumed almost immediately.
Our Cataract Surgeons
Thomas W. Samuelson, M.D.
Specializes in: Glaucoma, Cataract & Refractive Surgery
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.
Minnesota Eye Consultants is a comprehensive ophthalmology, eye care provider with various locations throughout Minnesota. If you are seeking Minnesota LASIK specialists and are interested in how laser vision correction could help you see better please contact us at your earliest convenience. Our LASIK counselors are here to help you determine the cost of LASIK, what happens during the LASIK procedure and how LASIK eye surgery can help your lifestyle. The eye doctors at Minnesota Eye Consultants are dedicated to helping our patients see better.
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