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Having Cataract Surgery

Your loved one has trouble seeing and has been diagnosed with a cataract. Surgery is typically recommended to treat this condition. It is a very common, and low risk surgery, but you will still want to be prepared to help your loved one through the procedure and recovery.

There are two types of cataract surgery that your loved one can experience. The more popular procedure is phacoemulsification. The surgeon makes an incision in the eye and inserts a probe that emulsifies the lens and sucks it out. The second option is called extracapsular cataract extraction, where a similar incision is made in the eye, and surgical tools are used to take the cloudy portions of the lens out. In both cases, the back of the original lens stays in place for an artificial lens to rest upon.

The next step involves inserting an intraocular lens into the open space. It becomes part of the eye and needs no attention. In most cases, the surgeon will use a flexible intraocutlar lens that folds and then unfolds once it has been placed in the eye space. It is important for your loved one to understand these procedures--that they are painless outpatient surgeries that are fairly low risk.

These procedures have been perfected to the point where they provide relief for most cataract sufferers; however, there can be some complications, including inflammation, bleeding, swelling or infection.

In preparing for surgery, you loved one will need to have some tests a week or two beforehand to “fit” the new lens to the eye. Your doctor may also advise your loved one to stop taking aspirin or blood thinners, because they could cause him or her to bleed excessively. He or she will most likely be asked to use antibiotic eye drops and will have to fast 12 hours prior to the surgery.

Before surgery, drops will be administered to dilate the pupils. The surgery itself will last for less an hour, and most patients are able to stay awake during the procedure. An anesthetic will be administered to numb the area around the eye.

After surgery, your loved one will most likely go home the same day. You will need to drive him or her home, or arrange for a ride. Help your loved one around the house too - he or she should not bend over or pick up heavy objects. Your loved one’s vision will be blurry for a few days as the eye heals. Make sure your loved one understands that he or she can expect some discomfort for the first few days. It’s common to experience some itching and fluid discharge. It’s important to keep the eye clean; remind your loved one to not rub it.

Your loved one will go to the eye doctor a day or two after the surgery to make sure the eye is healing. If your loved one has a second cataract, you can schedule a second surgery in two months after the eye is fully healed.

Resource: National Institutes of Health