What are Cataracts?
Cataracts is an age-related condition in which the lens of the eye becomes permanently cloudy. Over half the population over age 80 has cataracts. The majority of people develop cataracts in their 60’s. However, younger people can develop them in rare instances. The fact is that every person will eventually develop cataracts if they live long enough.
The lens of your eye is sort of like a camera lens. It changes shape allowing you to shift your focus from near to far. When cataracts develop, this lens becomes cloudy. If left untreated, the condition can cause blindness.
Difficulty with vision at night
Seeing halos around lights
Frequent changes in glasses prescription
Fading or yellowing of colors
Double vision in a single eye
Luckily there are permanent solutions for cataracts. Some of these solutions can simultaneously fix a multitude of other eye conditions such as myopia (distance vision problems), presbyopia (near vision problems), and astigmatism. Considering that 75% of the population uses vision correction and 100% of people will develop cataracts, why wait until cataracts are fully developed to enjoy 20/20 vision? This article will explore the different types of cataract options, as well as the process and recovery for surgery.
Options For Treatment
There are generally 4 types of cataract surgery. Because of the nature of the procedure, surgery can only be performed one time. Therefore, it is very important to carefully choose the type of cataract surgery that is right for you.
BASIC CATARACT TREATMENT
Basic cataract treatment fixes cataracts and prevents the further development of cataracts. It is generally covered by insurance. A monofocual intraocular lens is used to replace the original cloudy lens. The downsides are that the surgery is done manually, uses a microkeratome blade, the patient will have a fixed point of focus, and will require glasses for near vision and distance vision.
LASER CATARACT TREATMENT
Laser cataract treatment is similar to basic cataract treatment. The procedure is mostly covered by insurance. The biggest plus is that a laser is used to create the incision to remove the lens instead of a blade. Because a laser is used, the procedure is safer and there is less downtime. The patient will still need multiple pairs of glasses after treatment. Out of pocket cost ranges from $600 -$1,000 per eye.
DELUXE CATARACT TREATMENT
Deluxe cataract treatment uses a laser for a precise incision, it prevents and fixes cataracts, and it is partially covered by insurance. The difference here is the lens used. A custom astigmatism lens is placed in the eye instead of the standard intraocular lens. This lens improves distance vision. Most patients are able to drive without the need for glasses after surgery. However, glasses for reading vision will still be needed. The procedure is partially covered by insurance. Out of pocket cost ranges from $1,000 -$2,000 per eye.
PREMIUM CATARACT TREATMENT
Premium cataract treatment is the Rolls Royce of eye surgery. This “all-laser” procedure fixes cataracts, reading vision, distance vision, astigmatism, and prevents cataracts. The procedure is done with precision and a custom multi-focal lens replaces the natural lens in your eye. Most patients never have to wear glasses again. Partially covered by insurance, out of pocket cost ranges from $3,000 -$5,000 per eye. Financing options are available at most cataract centers.
How Long Does Surgery Take?
Leading up to surgery, a series of very precise measurements will be taken to determine the power, type, and prescription of the lens that will be placed into the eye. These measurements determine the amount of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The test also determines the thickness of the cornea. These tests provide essential information for choosing the right lens and performing the least invasive surgery possible. Rigorous testing is extremely necessary because the surgery can generally only be performed once.
In most cases, only 1 eye is done per surgery and the surgeries are spaced out approximately 3 weeks. The actual surgery only lasts around 15 minutes per eye. Most patients only require a topical or local anesthetic and a mild sedative. The total visit time is around 90 minutes at an outpatient facility.
Once the sedatives and anesthetics are administered, a small incision is made on the surface of the eye using either microkeratome or a laser. The cloudy lens is then carefully removed from the eye. The surgeon then replaces the lens with a monofocal or multifocal intraocular lens. The incision is usually so small that stitching is not always necessary. Next, the patient has a brief post-op examination with the surgeon and is able to go home. A driver will be necessary due to sedatives and light sensitivity.
What About Recovery?
Full recovery lasts around 3 weeks. However, the patient can resume most activities after 7 days. During this period, the patient will be required to wear special sunglasses outside and covering during showers. Also, special protective coverings must be worn during sleep to allow the incision to heal properly.
Things to avoid in the first 7 days:
Heavy lifting (25 pounds plus)
Any activities that can allow water into the eyes
Any activities that can allow dust into the eyes
Every eye is different so it is important to also follow any special instructions given by your doctor. After 7 days, most daily activities can be resumed. After 3 weeks, there will be a post-op examination to determine if the eye is fully healed.
Once healing is complete, the patient can enjoy life cataract free. The new lenses ensure that cataracts can never develop again. Patients that choose to have the premium multifocal lens implanted will (in most cases) not have to wear glasses for near or distance vision ever again.
Choosing the Right Surgeon
There are many surgeons out there, and choosing the right one is very important and worth the time and research. You only have one set of eyes, and you can only have your lenses replaced once. Here are some basic criteria for choosing an eye surgeon:
Education - Be sure that your surgeon attended and graduated from a reputable medical school.
Board Certification - There are many “boards” so be sure that your surgeon is a member of the American Board of Ophthalmology.
Patient Care - It is important to make sure you will have the same surgeon for pre-op, surgery, and post-op. Ask your doctor if he or she will be there with you through the entire process.
Experience - Ask your surgeon how many surgeries he or she has performed, read the reviews, and look for real patient testimonials.
Technology - Make sure that you choose a surgeon who uses the latest technology for eye surgery. Also, make sure your surgeon uses the latest technology for the testing leading up to the surgery.
Options for Treatment - Choose a doctor who offers multiple options for your cataract treatment.
Accepts Insurance - Make sure your doctor accepts your insurance. Find out the cost at your initial consultation. Insurance should cover all of the basic cataract surgeries and a portion of all upgraded surgeries.
It is also important to have a doctor that genuinely cares about your recovery. It has been said multiple times in this article but remember: you can only have the surgery one time. Attending a seminar on cataract surgery can be a great way for you to get to know your surgeon and understand your options for treatment.