The normal process of aging is the leading cause of cataracts. The eye’s lens slowly loses its clarity and gets cloudy as we age. As a result, the quality of vision decreases. Cataract surgery is recommended when your life’s quality starts to suffer.
It is important to know how to prepare yourself for cataract surgery and the available choices if you suspect you have cataracts or have been diagnosed with cataracts already.
Why you should get regular eye exams
Following the normal vision test, your doctor will dilate your pupils to look at the lens and other eye parts. It is crucial to go for these annual eye exams as you get older to be able to diagnose cataracts early and take the appropriate measures. To compensate for your vision that is decreasing, ensure that contact lenses or glasses are strong enough. Discuss with your eye doctor whether or not you require surgery as your cataracts progress.
What to expect during the cataract evaluation
A doctor will examine your eyes during your cataract evaluation. The reason for this is to evaluate the general health of the eye. In case you are diagnosed with cataracts during the evaluation, a patient care counselor will be assigned to you to discuss with you what to expect prior to and after a cataract surgery.
During cataract surgery
The only method to remove a cataract is through cataract surgery. During the surgery, a tiny incision is made where your eye’s natural lens is taken out. A new artificial lens replaces the natural lens, which has been taken out.
Over time, the surgical cataract treatment has greatly evolved. Patients who undergo cataract surgery now expect very good vision following the surgery. Currently, a procedure called phacoemulsification enables the cataract to be taken out via small cut, which is self-healing. When the lens is taken out, a tiny intraocular lens (IOL), which is foldable, is inserted in the eye, where it unfolds to substitute for the removed lens. Due to technology advancement, you can now choose what form of lens you want. Discuss with your doctor which type of lens will best suit you.
Choosing the right cataract lens
In the past, technologies for cataract surgery offered only a single focal point, which provided vision distance, making individuals depend on bifocals or reading glasses. The current technology advancements enable you to read words on newspapers, prescription bottles, computer screens, and magazines without using bifocals or reading glasses.
However, not everyone can have these lenses, and further testing is needed to determine whether or not you qualify for the modern technology lens.
Insurance and cataract surgery
The majority of insurance policies only cover monofocal (basic) lenses. In case you used corrective lenses before undergoing cataract surgery, some forms of corrective lenses may be required again after the surgery.
Your insurance will cater for the fee of the outpatient surgery and anesthesia cost, including the fee for the surgeon performing the cataract surgery. In case your doctor says you require advanced treatment that will increase your chances of not depending on glasses, the insurance company will review these options with you.
It is, however, important to note that the insurance does not cover the advanced treatment options.
During your first counseling and evaluation, make sure to raise any concerns you have regarding the surgery.
Further evaluation by the primary care physician
Chances are that you will go to your primary care physician to confirm that your overall health is good and that you are fit medically for the surgery. You will be tested for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other medical conditions that can negatively affect the surgery or your recovery.
Preparing: one week prior to cataract surgery
Around one week prior to the surgery, you will meet with your eye doctor to undergo several tests. The tests are painless and assist the doctor in figuring out the type of lens implant to use at the time of the surgery.
During this period, you will have follow-up visits, and it will be wise to make plans for the surgery day. Ensure you arrange for a relative or a friend to drive you home after the surgery, since you will not be able to drive yourself.
The majority of people go back to their normal chores within 48 hours following the surgery, although the first hours can be tricky as the eyes adjust. Make arrangements with someone who can help you with your chores in case you stay alone.
The night before the cataract surgery
You may be given eye drops or medicine to use the evening prior to the surgery. Ensure you carefully follow those given instructions. Your doctor will also ask you to not drink alcohol the night prior to the surgery.
Since some medications may need to be taken differently, ensure that you inform your doctor of any other medications you may be regularly using. Unless the doctor advises you differently, avoid eating or drinking after midnight. You should also ensure that you get a good night’s sleep. In case you are worried or stressed about the surgery, consult with your eye physician about available options to help you relax during this night.
The day of the procedure
In the morning of the cataract surgery, do not drink or eat anything. Ensure your clothing is comfortable and also do not put on makeup, perfume, or cosmetics. Plan to arrive thirty minutes earlier, in case there is any last-minute paperwork for you to fill out or any questions that need discussion.
It is important to have your ride home wait for you to ensure you do not need to call them after the cataract surgery.
You will be offered the recovery basics at the surgery center, and you can ask any questions that you may have. Don’t shy away from asking anything. Following all the preparation, the actual procedure follows, and it is surprisingly fast. Usually, it takes two hours to complete the whole session.
Immediately after your surgery
You will rest in the post-operative room after the cataract surgery for approximately one hour with a protective covering on the eye. Before leaving, you will probably:
- Have a sleepy feeling due to the anesthesia used.
- Be given prescription medications, like anti-inflammatory eye drops or antibiotics to use for the next few weeks.
- Get instructions on how to care for your eye.
- Make a follow-up appointment.
After the surgery, you will not have the ability to drive for about 24 hours following the surgery. Have your caregiver around to pick up your prescriptions and drive you home. You may have a stinging or grittiness feeling in your eye. This is normal, and you should avoid rubbing or putting pressure on your eye. Refrain from anything strenuous, like heavy lifting, for about a week, although you can do light activities, like walking, reading, or watching TV. To avoid sleeping on the operated part, wear a protective eye shield when going to sleep.
The majority of patients notice a big improvement within 24 hours following the surgery. In a month’s time, you will have been fully recovered. Your brain will continue to learn how to work with the new artificial lens, and, at six months, your vision will be optimal. Ensure you have a complete eye exam by the eye physician after one year and every year after to make sure you do not have new complications, like secondary cataracts.