Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is a popular and effective solution to deteriorating vision caused by eye cataracts.  A cataract is an opacity or cloudiness in the eye’s lens which is located behind the iris and pupil.  During surgery, the surgeon removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial lens called an inter-ocular lens.

Cataracts primarily affect  people over 40 and are  the leading cause of blindness the world over.  They form from a misalignment of proteins which make up an eye lens.  When these proteins adhere to each other incorrectly, they produce cloudy areas that grow over time.   While advancing age is the primary cause of cataracts, other factors which contribute to their formation have been identified by ocular researchers.  These include:

  • Smoking
  • Eye injury
  • Eye inflammation
  • Use of corticosteroids
  • UV radiation
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Cholesterol reducing statins
  • Heredity
  • Hormone replacements
  • Alcohol use
  • Myopia

There are two main types of cataract surgery procedures: phacoemulsification and laser.

Phacoemulsification involves using ultrasound waves to break up the formed cataract.  The cataract pieces are then gently suctioned out of the lens capsule.  A new, artificial lens, one that is clear, is inserted and positioned precisely where the cloudy lens used to be.

Advances in technology have provided other options other than the mono-focal lens used previously in phacoemulsification procedures.   An inserted  Toric lens can also correct distance vision while a multi-focal inter-ocular lens (IOL) corrects both near- and far-sightedness.

Laser technology, the exact technology used in Lasik surgeries, can also be used to remove cataracts.  This technology, known as femtosecond laser technology, uses an accurate, predictable and safe laser to make the corneal incision, gain access to the cataract through the lens capsule, and break up the cataract tissue for easy removal.  Using a laser also makes it less likely that the inner eye gets damaged during cataract removal which reduces the incidence of complications such as those associated with detached retinas.

Both types of cataract surgery are effective, with traditional cataract surgery having more performed procedures over time.  Laser cataract surgery is on the cutting edge of technology and the additional costs associated with the technology are not generally covered under Medicare or private health insurers.