A cataract is the thickening of the eye’s lens. Overtime, this “clouding” begins to restrict the light flow to the retina, causing eyesight to become blurred and dim, with the visual acuity similar to someone looking through a foggy window. Eventually, if no action is taken, total vision loss may occur. Though this condition is chronic and arguably inevitable, cataract surgery is a safe and effective solution, with a 98% success rate of improved vision in patients.
The eye's natural lens is that part of the eye that allows it to focus on objects at varying distances. The primary function of the lens is to bend and focus light to create a sharp image.
The term "cataract" refers to clouding of the eye's natural lens. Visually significant cataracts are often described as appearing similar to looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield. Things may look blurry, hazy or less colorful with a cataract.
Although cataracts typically develop slowly over time. When they become significant enough to impede daily activities, they can only be corrected with surgery. If your cataract symptoms are not bothering you very much, you do not have to remove the cataract. You may simply need a new eyeglass prescription. You should consider surgery when cataracts keep you from doing things you want or need to do. If a new glasses prescription does not improve your vision, it is likely time for cataract extraction and implantation of a new (synthetic) lens.
Cataract surgery is performed by the ophthalmologist (surgeon), guided with a specialized microscope and a phacoemulsification (phaco) machine. The surgeon makes an incision (capsulotomy) into the capsule of the cloudy lens to surgically remove it. Dr. McConnell removed the cataract via extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE).
ECCE surgery consists of removing the lens, but leaving the majority of the lens capsule intact. High frequency sound waves (phacoemulsification) are sometimes used to break up the lens before extraction. The cataractous lens is removed and replaced with a plastic lens (an intraocular lens implant) which stays in the eye permanently.
Cataract operations are performed using a local anesthetic, and sedative medication given through the I.V. Patients go home the same day.
Most post-surgery complications are low-risk and easily treatable. If a complication does arise, it is most commonly a posterior capsule opacification (PCO), or the slight thickening of the lens capsule due to a regrowth of the cells. This is not a new cataract because cataracts cannot grow back. However, this thickening can cause slight blurriness and sensitivity to bright lights. The cloudiness can be corrected with a procedure called a YAG Laser capsulotomy, which Dr. McConnell is able to perform in the office. He uses a laser to make a small hole in the back of the lens, allowing light to pass through to the retina. PCO affects only about 20% of cataract surgery patients.