There are many different causes of vision loss, but few are as pervasive as cataracts. According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are more than 20 million Americans over the age of 40 who are affected by this condition, and it is estimated that more than half of all Americans will either have a cataract or have undergone cataract surgery by the time they reach their eighties. In fact, cataracts are considered to be the leading cause of visual impairment world-wide. At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. William Segal regularly performs intraocular lens replacement procedures to restore the vision of men and women who are suffering from cataracts, but many patients avoid treatment because they don’t understand what the procedure entails. We thought that explaining, step by step, exactly what happens during cataract surgery might be the best way to diffuse that fear and help encourage patients to get the help they need.
The preparation for cataract surgery usually begins a week or two before the procedure itself, when Dr. Segal uses specialized instruments to take detailed measurements of the size and shape of the eye and the curvature of the cornea. During this time, he will discuss with the patient the different intraocular lenses that are available, ranging from simple monofocal lenses to the top-of-the-line ReSTOR® premium multifocal lenses, so that they can determine which will be the best choice for the patient’s needs.
Step Two: Computer Imaging
After the patient is given a mild sedative and drops are put into the eye to dilate the pupil, Dr. Segal will use the most sophisticated digital imaging equipment available to capture a high-resolution image of the eye and perform key diagnostic measurements. The Verion™ image guided system, a new eye surgery technology that painlessly maps the eye’s unique structural anatomy, creates a virtual “fingerprint” of the eye that can then be used as a visual reference for all surgical incisions and positioning of the intraocular lens (IOL).
Step Three: Making the Incision
Dr. Segal then makes a tiny incision in the side of the cornea using the computer-controlled LenSx® laser, which uses pulses of laser light to create consistent incisions and openings in the lens capsule that are up to ten times more precise than those made during a manual cataract procedure. Because of the high speed of the laser and the precision targeting of the Verion™ image guided system, the creation of the incision takes only microseconds and is completely painless.
Step Four: Removal and Replacement of the Lens
The old lens, damaged and clouded by cataracts is broken up using ultrasonic vibrations and removed from the eye capsule. Then a new intraocular lens made of silicone is placed into the capsule and the capsule is closed and allowed to heal. Actual time spent under the laser is usually less than fifteen minutes, and the entire process takes less than half an hour. Most patients spend a maximum of three to four hours in the office recuperating and are allowed to go home that same day.
Although cataract surgery is a highly specialized procedure, requiring a great deal of skill and experience to perform, it is relatively quick and painless for the patient and has an extremely high success rate. If you would like to learn more about cataract surgery, or if you have any other questions or concerns about your vision, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons to schedule an eye exam and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision healthy.