Symptoms and Diagnosis
A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye. Normally, light passes through the clear lens and is focused onto the retina. However, as a result of the natural aging process, the lens gradually becomes cloudy. The cataract or cloudy lens blocks the passage of light through the eye and causes distorted or blurred vision.
Once a cataract has formed, the most effective way to restore vision is to remove the cloudy cataract and replace it with a plastic lens implant (Intraocular lens or IOL). With recent advances in cataract surgery equipment and techniques, vision can be restored safer and faster, allowing patients to resume normal activities within hours after surgery (some activities may be limited during healing). Using these state of the art techniques, cataract surgery has a success rate greater than 98%.
Previously, cataract surgery was performed under general anesthesia requiring patients to stay in the hospital. Today, with recent advances in cataract surgery anesthesia, topical anesthetics are used. A patient may be given a sedative to help them relax and keep them comfortable during the procedure. Next, the eye is anesthetized with eye drops instead of a needle injection.
No–Stitch, Self-Sealing Incision Surgery
Dr. Lum was the first doctor in Ventura County to perform No-Stitch cataract surgery. Using this technique, patients can use their eye the same day as their surgery. This surgery commonly takes less than ten minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis.
Ultrasound technology (phacoemulsification or “phaco”) is the best way to remove a cataract. With “phaco” a probe is inserted through a small 1/8” opening created with a specific self-sealing technique. Ultrasound is used to gently break-up the cloudy lens into tiny pieces which are removed through the tip of the “phaco” probe. A special lens is then implanted though this small incision. Today, there are many special lens options available. A conversation with Dr. Lum and his staff will help provide information about lens choices and the benefits provided by each.
Basic or Advanced Cataract Surgery?
Basic cataract surgery corrects vision for one distance using an intraocular lens (IOL) that is known as a monofocal lens implant. For most people this means that after surgery they gain the ability to see distant objects clearly. Reading, bifocal or progressive glasses are still required for good near or intermediate vision and people with astigmatism need corrective lenses to see clearly at any distance. The cost of cataract surgery with a monofocal implant is covered by Medicare and private insurance companies.
For others, however, the need for corrective lenses at any time, whether for reading, shopping, fishing, golfing, knitting or other activities is cumbersome, ineffective, and unattractive and detracts from their quality of life. With today’s advanced cataract treatments, more people are selecting options like premium lens implants where they have the opportunity to customize their vision to meet their own lifestyle need.
Many patients are pleased to find that after cataract surgery their vision improvement begins almost immediately, and they return home within a few hours after the procedure. Patients may find their vision better than ever; however, some will need to wear glasses for reading or other activities following the procedure.
During cataract surgery a clear capsule is left in place to support the lens implant. In some cases this capsule may turn cloudy months or years after surgery, creating what is sometimes called a “secondary” cataract. If this occurs, an outpatient laser procedure will quickly restore vision.