Your eye has a clear lens, just like a camera. It can become clouded as a cataract due to age, injury, or other factors.
Normally, a clear lens provides clear vision. A cataract lens blurs, dims, discolors, and clouds one’s vision. Surgery removes this cataract, and replaces it with a small, clear plastic lens.
Types of Cataracts
There are many types of cataracts. In some, only part of the lens is affected, and yet, this can cause a great loss in the quality of vision. As cataracts can develop slowly over a period of time, decreased vision may not be noticed.
Modern replacement intraocular lenses are unfolded into the eye through a very small incision.
For most cases of cataract removal, a small incision is made in the front part of the eye. The cataract lens is removed using a special ultrasonic probe. The new replacement lens is placed inside the lens bag, which is left intact.
Sometimes following cataract surgery, the lens bag can develop opacities behind the implanted lens. Laser treatment at a later date creates a hole in the bag, to restore clear vision. This is known as a secondary cataract.
A small incision is made in the sclera or near the edge of the clear cornea.
A special protective viscoelastic material, or air, is placed inside the eye.
The anterior lens bag is opened on top using very small forceps. Sometimes, a laser is used.
Fluid is used to separate the lens from its outer bag. This is called hydrodissection.
Next, a special ultrasonic probe is used to break up the cataract lens. This is called phacoemulsification. The lens fragments are aspirated and removed from the eye.
The natural lens bag is left intact. It is polished and cleaned, using irrigation and aspiration.
In most cases, the folded intraocular lens is placed through the small incision. It is unfolded into the lens bag. This modern approach usually requires no suture for the very small incision. The surgery is complete.
The computerized cataract ultrasonic system provides total surgeon control of both intraocular pressure and cataract extraction. Other techniques may be used in special cases, and exploration continues for the future. Cataracts mostly affect people over 60 years of age, but they can occur at any age. Most cataract surgeries are an out-patient procedure, taking just a few minutes, and allow a patient to return to most daily activities within a couple of days. Cataract surgery, as with all surgeries, does contain an element of risk which must be fully considered and discussed with your eye care provider.