What Are the New Ways to Remove Cataracts?

Apr 7, 2024

What are cataracts?

Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy due to proteins in your lens breaking down. This can cause things to look hazy, blurry, or less colorful and can impact quality of life and overall health due to poor vision. Most cataracts develop gradually, which is why it can be difficult to notice them until they’re impacting your vision. 

However, as soon as you notice an issue with your vision, notify your ophthalmologist, and they will examine and test each eye to make a cataract diagnosis. Following this, your doctor will make a recommendation for eye treatment, which will likely involve cataract surgery. Thanks to modern medicine and ophthalmological developments, there are several options when it comes to implantable lenses and removing cataracts. Because it is important to do the proper research on the next steps for this eye surgery, read on for more information about cataract treatment and removal.

What causes cataracts?

Although there are several causes for cataracts, aging is the most common. This is due to natural eye changes that begin to occur after 40 years old, when proteins in the lens begin to break down, thus leading to cataracts. People over the age of 60 usually begin to have some clouding of their lenses, though vision problems may not become evident until years later.

Other risk factors for cataracts include:

  • Genetic susceptibility (having family members who have experienced cataracts)
  • Having certain health conditions that impact eye health, such as diabetes
  • Having had an eye injury, eye surgery, or radiation treatment on your upper body
  • Using certain medications, including corticosteroids, which may influence early formation of cataracts
  • Smoking (which increases susceptibility for cataracts)
  • While not staying up to date on your eyeglasses prescription will not cause cataracts, it can exacerbate symptoms of poor vision

Is there a way to slow cataract development?

Most age-related cataracts will develop gradually, but those caused by diabetes or experienced by younger people may develop more quickly. Every person’s experience with cataracts is slightly different, and your doctor cannot predict how quickly or severe your cataracts will be. The best measures you can take to manage cataracts are to stay up to date on your glasses and contact lens prescriptions, monitor health issues like diabetes, and refrain from smoking. While these strategies can help you slow cataract development or cope with symptoms, a procedure is the only way to remove your cataracts.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

The first sign of cataracts begins with the vision, usually involving blurry or cloudy patches that would normally be clear. If you suspect you may be suffering from cataracts, your ophthalmologist will examine and test each eye to make a cataract diagnosis. This comprehensive eye exam will include dilation, which involves using eye drops to widen the pupils. Then, your doctor will examine your cornea, iris, lens, and the other areas at the front of the eye with a special special microscope called a slit lamp to check for abnormalities. When the eye is dilated, your pupils are wide open, making it possible for your doctor to clearly see the back of the eye. Using the slit lamp, an ophthalmoscope, or both, the doctor will look for signs of cataract, as well as glaucoma, and will examine the retina and optic nerve of each eye. Finally, you will likely be given a refraction and visual acuity test, which will assess the sharpness and clarity of your vision.

When do I know it’s time for surgery?

After a cataract diagnosis, some patients will opt to wait until a later date to undergo surgery. For many people, the best option is to supplement vision issues with the right eyeglasses or contact lenses prescription until symptoms progress. Cataract surgery in early stages is sometimes recommended, but it’s not the best option for every person with cataracts. If you are able to live your life mostly uninhibited by your vision, you may choose to do so. Additionally, you may be able to slow cataract development by taking actions such as protecting your vision by quitting smoking or managing symptoms with updated glasses prescriptions. However, while these are helpful strategies to help prolong your vision as long as possible, once you get to a certain point of life, cataracts may simply be inevitable. Once they impede your everyday life and health, it is time to consider cataract surgery.

What is cataract extraction?

The only way to remove cataracts is through surgery, during which your cloudy lens is replaced with an artificial one to remove the blurry spots and improve your vision. This is something that should be discussed with your ophthalmologist when the time is right.

Is removing cataracts difficult or long?

Though every patient and case are different, the vast majority of cataract surgeries are quick and comfortable. This is a very common procedure for experienced surgeons like Dr. Weber and Dr. Beran of Columbus Laser & Cataract Center and one we will not perform if we don’t have confidence in its ability to improve your quality of life and overall health.

How does cataract surgery work?

During cataract surgery, your surgeon will remove your eye’s cloudy lens and replace it with a clear, artificial one called an intraocular lens (IOL). Your ophthalmologist will explain IOLs and how they work prior to your procedure and may propose specialty lenses to correct other relevant vision issues like myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, or presbyopia. The results of cataract surgery improve vision quality for nearly all patients and is one of the most common surgeries globally. 

How long is recovery?

Most patients experience little to no pain after cataract surgery and will receive a topical anesthetic (eye drops) to numb the eyes during the procedure. Shortly after, your eyes may feel somewhat tender or slightly gritty, but over-the-counter pain medicine should improve this. After the procedure is over, your surgeon will monitor you for 15-30 minutes and schedule your follow-up appointment. Temporary eye watering and itching are very normal. Most people notice improved vision between 1 and 3 days after surgery, but it could take 3 to 10 weeks for your vision to adjust to the surgery’s full results. Most people will be able to return to their normal routine within 24-72 hours. It is important to prioritize your health immediately following surgery. Wait until your doctor clears you for activities like working, driving, or exercising. Don’t rush the process!

What is extracapsular cataract removal?

Extracapsular cataract extraction (or ECCE) refers to the technique in which a portion of the anterior capsule of the lens is removed from the eye, allowing extraction of the lens nucleus and cortex, leaving the remainder of the anterior capsule and the zonular support intact. In other words, this procedure is all about how the lens is accessed. This form of cataract extraction is employed so the cataract is removed in one piece instead of being fragmented within the eye, as it is in phacoemulsification (the most common technique for cataract removal). Just like all cataract surgeries, the natural clouded lens is still replaced with a clear IOL lens. 

Is There a benefit to this technique?

ECCE is used in cases of highly advanced cataracts that are too dense for phacoemulsification, or when it is not possible for various other reasons. If either of these descriptions fit your medical profile, this may be a good option for you. However, ECCE technique may result in slower recovery of the wound as well as visual function. Thus, while this may be a great option for patients who are not candidates for the traditional cataract removal technique, it is not recommended for the average patient.

What is laser cataract surgery?

Laser cataract surgery, otherwise known as laser-assisted cataract surgery or femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery (FLACS) is another way to remove cataracts. This laser-assisted surgery involves many of the same methods as traditional cataract surgery, except it uses a laser to make the initial incision in the cornea and to soften the cataract (similar to LASIK). Like traditional cataract surgery, the surgeon will remove the lens and replace it with an IOL lens.

What is the best way to remove a cataract?

Ultimately, your surgeon’s skill and expertise are the most important factors that will influence the outcome of your cataract surgery. Despite their differences, studies have shown that traditional cataract surgery and laser cataract surgery result in the same quality of visual acuity, complication rates, and recovery time. With modern advancements in cataract surgery, an excellent cataract result is most influenced by your surgeon’s technique, the intraocular lens that is used, as well as patient compliance after the procedure. For patients looking to learn more about all things cataract surgery, we strongly recommend consulting with experts, like Drs. Beran and Weber.

How to choose the right surgeon

We know that researching different types of procedures and surgical techniques may seem overwhelming. The best way to ensure your vision and health are in the best hands during cataract surgery is to research and select a surgeon with the proper education, expertise, and years of experience who can guide you on your cataract removal journey. Dr. Beran and Dr. Weber of Columbus Laser & Cataract Center have over 50 years of combined experience and will take the time to learn about your unique medical profile and come up with a plan to help make your vision the best it can be.

Vision is more than what you see

At Columbus Laser & Cataract Center, we want to help you prioritize your quality of life and overall well-being. From completing everyday tasks to watching the sunset with your loved ones, our experts are passionate about making your vision a tool for your general health and wellness.

Need more information?

It’s important to be equipped with the proper information before exploring cataract surgery. For more details about cataracts, cataract surgery, or our services—or if you are interested in scheduling an appointment—please visit our website or call our clinic at 614-939-1600!