Cataracts develop when the lens of the eye becomes clouded over time. This condition is usually an age-related eye issue, and it causes problems with seeing clearly. However, cataracts can usually be fixed through an outpatient procedure performed by an ophthalmologist. While the surgery itself won’t take long, cataract patients must also undergo a preparation and recovery process. Here’s what you need to know to prepare for cataract surgery.
Step 1: The Consultation
If you have a cataract in either eye or both eyes that you want removed, your first course of action should be to talk to your ophthalmologist about the possibility of surgery. In some cases, your ophthalmologist may suggest this during a routine exam before you bring it up. They will look at your medical history and ask you questions about your health, and will likely perform a few basic tests to ensure that you’re a good candidate to receive cataract surgery. They will also introduce you to the different procedures available for cataract surgery and help you choose which one will work best for your needs. Different kinds of replacement eye lenses are also available, from a regular synthetic lens to lenses that use more advanced technology to improve your vision.
Step 2: The Lead-Up
About a week prior to your surgery, your ophthalmologist will want to see you again to perform a few more minor, painless tests, such as an ultrasound of your eye to determine its size and shape in order to most effectively operate. Your doctor will also discuss the process with you, likely advising the following:
- Arrange a ride to and from the surgery center (as you’ll be unable to drive after the procedure)
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing like a sweatshirt and sweatpants on the day of surgery
- Don’t wear any kind of makeup, cosmetics, perfume, or cologne the day of the procedure
- Don’t eat or drink anything the night before or at least six hours prior to the procedure
During this meeting, your doctor will also likely prescribe you medications for preparation and recovery.
Step 3: The Procedure
The day of your cataract procedure, plan to arrive at the surgery center at least 30 minutes early so you can check in and fill out any extra paperwork. This is also a time to ask any final questions (don’t be afraid to ask anything you need to!) and receive anti-anxiety medication if you have discussed that with your doctor.
Once your ophthalmologist is ready for you, you will be taken to a preparation and operation room. Here, you will receive some form of localized anesthesia and be moved into the correct position for your procedure. Your eye will be held open using special tools, and the doctor will perform the procedure. The most common technique used today for cataract surgery is called phacoemulsification. If this is your and your ophthalmologist’s chosen technique, your doctor will:
- Create a tiny incision in your eye
- Break the cataract using an ultrasonic device
- Remove the pieces of the cataract with suction
- Insert a brand new synthetic lens
- Seal the incision with a special liquid (usually, no stitches or sutures are required)
After the procedure is over, your eye will be covered with an eye shield and you will be led to a recovery room for 15-30 minutes.
Step 4: Recovery
After your procedure, you will need a lot of rest. It’s usually a good idea to take a long nap as soon as you get home. You will also need to begin using your prescribed recovery eye drops as directed by your doctor. During the first 24 to 48 hours of your recovery, your eye may feel itchy or appear red. It may also feel sore or irritated, and it may sting or burn. Your vision may also be blurry. All of these initial side effects are normal, but you should talk to your doctor immediately if they persist for more than a couple of days. Blurry vision may take up to a week to resolve.
During your recovery and subsequent follow-up appointments, it will be important to:
- Avoid touching or rubbing your eye
- Use your eye drops according to your doctor’s instructions
- Sleep with a protective eye patch or shield at night to avoid injuring yourself
- Wear protective eyewear during the day if your doctor recommends it
- Avoid using contact lenses
It’s also important to note that you may still need corrective lenses or eyeglasses even after your cataract surgery for tasks like reading and using a computer.
At Piedmont Eye Center, it’s our goal to ensure that you’re satisfied with your eye care, and we want to make sure that you experience the best sight possible. If you have cataracts and need to get them removed, contact us today to schedule a consultation!