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Cataract surgery

Cataracts are a common eye condition where cloudy patches affect the lens of an eye so a person's vision seems misty or blurred.

For mild cataracts, stronger glasses and brighter room lighting may help, but if the cataracts are affecting daily life, a cataract operation may be recommended.

During this procedure, the lens is replaced with a plastic lens called an intraocular implant or intraocular lens or IOL.

What happens during cataract surgery?

During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed or cleaned out and replaced by a clear manmade lens. There are three types of surgical techniques used.

The most common method of cataract surgery is extracapsular surgery. During this cataract surgery, the surgeon makes a medium-sized slit on the side of your cornea. The cloudy central section of the lens is slipped out of the eye in one piece. Then, the surgeon vacuums out the rest of the lens. This type of cataract surgery is often used for advanced cataracts when the lens is dense.

Phacoemulsification is also called “small incision cataract surgery”, and is an advanced form of extracapsular cataract surgery. Most cataract removals today are done by phacoemulsification. The incision can be smaller because the harder centre section of the lens is liquefied and then vacuumed out.

Under local anaesthetic, a surgeon performing phacoemulsification makes a small opening on the side of your cornea. A device that sends ultrasound vibrations is inserted into the eye and breaks the lens into small pieces. The fragments are then removed by suction through the small incision in the eye.

An older type of cataract surgery is intracapsular cataract surgery, during which the lens is not taken apart but removed in one piece. Rarely used today, this procedure requires a larger cut than extracapsular surgery but may be required in special cases such as trauma or dislocated lenses.

After the cataract is removed, the surgeon usually replaces it with a new, artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). This procedure is called "intraocular lens implantation".

The IOL is a clear plastic or silicone lens selected to fit your eye and help restore normal vision. It doesn’t require any special care.

The IOL focuses light onto the retina to help improve your vision. Still, even if your natural lens is replaced with an intraocular lens, you probably will need a new eyeglass prescription.

Cataract surgery is usually done as an outpatient procedure in an operating room, so you don't have to stay in the hospital. The operation lasts about one hour.

Some people prefer to be awake during the surgery. A sedative may be given and numbing drops are placed on the eyes. Talk to your surgeon about your preference.

Doctors usually won't remove cataracts in both eyes at the same time. If you need both eyes done, you will be scheduled for separate operations about four to eight weeks apart.

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