Although you’re probably not looking forward to cataract surgery, keep in mind that modern cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries performed today. There are over three million cataract surgeries in the United States every year and the vast majority have excellent outcomes which greatly improve quality of life.
Being prepared for your upcoming surgery by knowing what to ask your eye doctor and understanding your options will ease your mind and be sure you’re ready for recovery.
First, you’ll need an ophthalmologist to perform the cataract surgery. Ophthalmologists treat eye diseases, prescribe medications, and perform surgeries to improve eye and vision-related conditions. In addition to four years of medical school and one year of internship, all ophthalmologists have three years of residency. Here are some ways to identify the best provider for your needs:
Your Regular Eye Doctor – Even if your eye doctor is an optometrist, he/she will be knowledgeable about ophthalmologists in the region and can advise on their specialties.
Family and Friends – If they had a positive experience, you can hear personal stories to really know if the doctor is right for you.
Go Online – Find eye surgeons in your area by using the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Find an Ophthalmologist tool.
Once you find the right doctor, you’ll have a consultation before proceeding. You'll undergo a comprehensive eye exam and a preoperative exam to determine the level of correction needed and confirm you're healthy enough for surgery.
Your doctor will also need to take measurements of your eyes before the procedure. This will determine the curvature of your cornea and the length of your eye. They need this information to choose the right size and power of the intraocular lens (IOL). This artificial lens will replace the cloudy lens inside your eye.
There are a variety of IOLs with different features available. Before surgery, you and your eye surgeon will discuss which type might work best for you and your lifestyle, but bear in mind that insurance companies may not pay for all types of lenses. Some of the types of lenses available include:
Fixed-focus monofocal – This has a single focus strength for distance vision. You’ll likely still need reading glasses.
Accommodating-focus monofocal – These are designed to provide a greater range of paragraph vision after cataract surgery than conventional monofocal IOLs.
Multifocal – Like glasses with bifocal or progressive lenses, they allow near, medium and far vision.
Astigmatism correction (toric) – If you have a significant astigmatism, this type of lens can help correct your vision.
Just prior to surgery, your eye doctor will have some instructions, including:
Stopping any medications that could increase your risk of bleeding during the procedure or interfere with cataract surgery
Using antibiotic eye drops one or two days before the surgery
Fasting 12 hours before the procedure
As you prepare for your upcoming procedure, keep the following in mind for your recovery period.
Get a driver – Make sure you have a reliable companion who can drive you to and from your appointment. Uncomplicated cataract surgery usually lasts 15-20 minutes.
However, you’ll probably be at the hospital for about 90 minutes. They need to prepare you for surgery and provide instructions about your cataract surgery recovery before you leave.
Have a Day-of-Surgery Caregiver – Some surgery centers require that someone be with you for at least one day if you received anesthesia, so be sure to ask and arrange coverage.
Ongoing Helper – You should also arrange for a friend or family member to help around the house or drive you for at least the first week. You won’t be able to do any strenuous activity and heavy lifting (nothing over 25 pounds) and you shouldn’t bend, exercise or perform any other similar activity that might stress your eye.
Medical Assistance – If you anticipate any difficulty giving yourself medicated eye drops, find someone who can administer them for you several times each day for a few weeks after surgery.
Stay Inside – Plan to stay indoors as much as possible, but you’ll receive a special pair of sunglasses for when you go outside.
With a better understanding of what to expect before cataract surgery, you can reduce any anxiety and form a plan for a successful procedure. Soon, you’ll be seeing your world more clearly – and be happy you decided to do it!