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Cataract Surgery and Lens Replacement

written by: Norene A • edited by: lrohner • updated: 1/15/2011

Cataract surgery and lens replacement is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure to remove the cloudy lens and insert an intraocular lens to restore vision. Read on to learn about the procedure and types of lens available.

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    What Is a Cataract?

    A cataract is the clouding of the lens in the eye that distorts or blocks vision. While most cataracts are associated with the aging process, according to the National Eye Institute, other types of cataracts include:

    • Secondary cataracts that can form along with other eye conditions or health issues
    • Traumatic cataracts following an eye injury
    • Congenital cataracts that are present at birth or shortly thereafter
    • Radiation cataracts that develop as a result to radiation exposure

    Possible symptoms of a cataract, in addition to the cloudy vision, include poor night vision, sensitivity to light, double vision, glare and faded colors.

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    Types of Cataract Surgery

    The time for cataract surgery is determined by the extent of interference with daily activities, such as reading, watching television or driving. Other eye disorders, such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy may indicate a need for cataract removal. Your eyecare professional will do tests, such as a dilated eye exam to evaluate the internal structure of your eye, a visual acuity test to determine how much your vision is compromised and he will measure your eye pressure.

    If surgery is indicated, there are two types of cataract surgery. Phacoemulsification requires a small incision along the side of the cornea where a tiny ultrasound probe is inserted to break up the clouded lens for removal. Extracapsular surgery requires a longer incision so the cloudy portion of the lens can be removed in one piece.

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    Lens Replacement

    Once the affected lens has been surgically removed, an artificial lens is often put in its place, unless the eye is determined to be diseased or damaged. The artificial lens, known as an IOL or intraocular lens, becomes a permanent part of your eye to restore vision. Prior to surgery, your doctor will do tests to determine the best lens to fit your lifestyle. IOL types include:

    • A single foldable lens that requires only a small incision
    • A multifocal lens designed to provide excellent image quality at distance and near
    • A lens for enhanced depth and near vision

    Cataract surgery and lens replacement is successful in restoring vision. All About Vision reports that more than 3 million Americans have surgery to correct visual impairments caused by cataracts every year. Most people report a success of regaining vision between 20/20 and 20/40. The risks are few and most people experience a short recovery time following the procedure.

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    After Cataract Surgery

    Although cataract surgery and lens replacement is most often successful, there are possible complications. Posterior capsule opacity, which is the growth of epithelial cells that remain after the cataract surgery, may require laser treatment to resolve. Another possible complication is the dislocation of the IOL implant. A second procedure may be required to reposition the lens. Minor complications that most often resolve with time and medications include elevated eye pressure and swelling.

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    References

    National Eye Institute: Cataract Defined http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts.asp

    All About Vision: Cataracts http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/cataracts.htm