So you’ve been told you need cataract surgery. Maybe you’ve noticed your vision getting cloudier over time. Or your eye doctor saw some changes during a routine exam and recommended you see a specialist. Either way, you likely have a lot of questions about what comes next.
I get it – the thought of someone operating on your eyes can be scary. You only get one pair after all! But cataract surgery is actually one of the safest and most successful procedures performed today. By asking the right questions ahead of time, you can feel informed and ready every step of the way.
Choosing Your Surgeon
The first big decision is picking the ophthalmologist who will perform your cataract operation. This eye surgeon will determine much of your experience, so it’s important to feel comfortable with their skills and approach. Here are some key questions to ask potential surgeons:
How many cataract surgeries have you performed? You’ll want a doctor who does these routinely – most perform between 15-30 per week. New surgeons may have around 200-300 under their belt. But experience matters most after about 1,000 surgeries.
What are your patient outcomes like? Ask about their complication rates specifically. The best surgeons have fewer than 5% overall, with serious issues in only 1 out of every 2,000 surgeries.
Can you walk me through the procedure? Make sure they explain the steps in a way you understand. From anesthesia to lenses, knowing what to expect can help ease nerves.
How do you involve patients in decisions? You want a doctor who listens to your lifestyle needs and vision goals. They should welcome all questions!
With an experienced, communicative surgeon, you can feel confident they have the skills and bedside manner to help you achieve your best possible outcome.
Understanding The Procedure
Cataract surgery has come a long way in the last few decades. Most procedures are now done with lasers, making them faster and more precise.
During surgery, your cloudy natural lens will be broken up with ultrasound waves and gently suctioned out. The surgeon will insert a clear artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL) in its place. This whole process takes around 15 minutes and is usually painless.
You’ll be given anesthesia options to make you comfortable. Many people opt for a topical anesthetic, which just numbs the eye with drops. You’ll stay awake during the procedure but shouldn’t feel anything.
Within a day or two, you’ll likely notice improved vision! It continues getting better over the next few weeks as your eye heals completely. Most people can resume their normal routine within 48 hours.
Picking Your Replacement Lens
One big choice is deciding which type of IOL is right for you. There are a few options:
Monofocal lenses focus at one distance – usually far away. So reading will still require glasses.
Multifocal lenses allow clear vision both up close and far. But some find the transition between distances makes night driving tricky.
Toric lenses correct astigmatism, reducing reliance on glasses. They cost more but can maximize vision.
I recommend asking which lens your doctor thinks suits your needs and lifestyle best. Be honest about your vision goals, interests, and budget. There’s no “one size fits all” option when it comes to IOLs.
Preparing for the Big Day
Cataract surgery is usually an outpatient procedure. That means you’ll get to go home the same day! To get ready:
- Stop taking certain medications, as directed, a week before surgery to reduce risks.
- Expect to fast for 6-8 hours beforehand.
- Plan for someone to drive you home afterwards. You’ll want help around the house initially too.
- Use antibiotic eye drops as prescribed to prevent infection leading up to the procedure.
Following these steps and your doctor’s specific guidance will have you prepped and ready to go!
Post-op discomfort is usually mild. You may deal with blurry vision, irritation, tearing or light sensitivity for the first couple days. This is normal as your eye gets used to its new lens.
Your doctor will have you come in the next morning or so to check your progress. You’ll likely leave the appointment impressed with your vision improvement so far!
Use any medicated drops as directed during the weeks following surgery. Avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting to allow proper healing. Most people can drive, exercise and return to work within a week. Just take it slow and listen to your body.
Weighing the Risks
Despite being so common, less than 5% of patients experience complications from cataract surgery. The most common side effects are temporary dry eye or blurry vision. Relieving eye drops help manage both issues.
More serious risks like bleeding or infection inside the eye are extremely rare. But it’s important to discuss them with your doctor beforehand. Let them know of any prior eye conditions or injuries too, as these can impact surgical difficulty.
The chances for success are overwhelmingly in your favor, though. Over 98% of patients report better vision after cataract surgery! Knowing what to expect ahead of time helps minimize any risks.
After surgery, your ophthalmologist will want to see you periodically to ensure you’re healing well. You may also need to follow up with an optometrist to get glasses or contacts adapted to your new lens.
While cataracts can’t regrow, sometimes a membrane can develop behind the IOL, causing fuzzier vision again. If this happens, you’ll likely need a quick laser treatment to clear it up. No major surgery required!
And you may notice more glare and halos around lights at night. Discuss concerns with your doctor – options like lens exchanges or protective glasses can help minimize issues.
Overall, cataract surgery offers significant benefits and few downsides when done right. By asking questions and reviewing concerns ahead of time, you can prepare both your mind and body for the very best results. Here’s to many years of clear, vibrant vision!