What is cataract ?
Cataract is a common eye condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, leading to a progressive loss of vision. The lens of the eye is normally clear and allows light to pass through it, but when a cataract develops, the lens becomes opaque or cloudy and scatters light entering the eye. This results in blurred vision, increased sensitivity to glare, and difficulty seeing in low light conditions.
Cataracts are usually associated with aging, but they can also be caused by other factors such as injury, certain medications, or medical conditions such as diabetes. Cataracts can often be treated with surgery, during which the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant.
Price of cataract surgery
The price of cataract surgery can vary depending on several factors, such as the location, the type of surgery, the surgeon’s experience, and the type of intraocular lens (IOL) used.
In the United States, the average cost of cataract surgery without insurance is between $3,000 and $5,000 per eye. However, with insurance, the out-of-pocket cost can be significantly lower. In Tunisia, the price of cataract is about $1,000.
Cataract surgery : What you need to know before you start
If you’re considering cataract surgery, here are some important things to know before you start :
- Diagnosis : Cataracts are usually diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam with an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The doctor will examine your eyes and perform several tests to determine the presence and severity of cataracts ;
- Surgery preparation : Before the surgery, your doctor will give you instructions on how to prepare. This may include stopping certain medications or eye drops, fasting for a certain period of time before the surgery, and arranging for someone to drive you home after the procedure ;
- Procedure : Cataract surgery is typically an outpatient procedure that takes about 15-30 minutes to complete. During the surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant. You will receive local anesthesia to numb the eye, but you will be awake during the procedure ;
- Recovery : After the surgery, you will need to take it easy for a few days and avoid strenuous activities. You will also need to use eye drops to help prevent infection and reduce inflammation. Your doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your progress and ensure that your eye is healing properly ;
- Risks : Like any surgical procedure, cataract surgery has some risks, such as infection, bleeding, and vision loss. However, these risks are rare, and most people experience successful outcomes with no complications ;
- Lifestyle changes : After cataract surgery, you may need to make some lifestyle changes, such as wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from bright light and avoiding rubbing your eyes. You may also need to adjust your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription to optimize your vision after the procedure ;
It’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor about any concerns or questions you may have about cataract surgery.
How the cataract procedure is performed ?
Cataract surgery is typically an outpatient procedure that takes about 15-30 minutes to complete.
Here are the general steps involved in the surgery :
- Anesthetic : Before the surgery, the eye is numbed with local anesthesia. To enhance your comfort, a sedative may be administered to help you relax throughout the procedure ;
- Incision : The surgeon makes a small incision on the side of the cornea, the clear front part of the eye. This incision may be made manually or with a laser ;
- Capsulotomy : Next, the surgeon creates a circular opening in the front of the lens capsule, which is the thin membrane that surrounds the lens ;
- Lens removal : The surgeon then breaks up and removes the cloudy lens using a special tool called a phacoemulsifier. The lens is typically broken up into small pieces and removed through the same incision ;
- Lens implant : After the cloudy lens is removed, the surgeon inserts a clear artificial lens implant, called an intraocular lens (IOL), into the same capsule where the natural lens was located. The IOL is typically folded and inserted through the same small incision ;
- Closing incision : Once the IOL is in place, the surgeon carefully closes the incision with tiny stitches or with a self-sealing technique that does not require stitches;
- Postoperative care : After the procedure, you will be moved to a recovery area where your eye will be monitored. You may be given eye drops to help prevent infection and reduce inflammation. After the procedure, you can usually return home on the same day ;
It’s important to note that the specific details of the cataract surgery may vary depending on the surgeon and the specific techniques used. Your surgeon will provide you with detailed instructions on how to prepare for the surgery and what to expect during and after the procedure.
The after-effects of cataract surgery
After cataract surgery, you may experience some common after-effects.
Here are some of the most common ones :
- Blurred vision : Your vision may be blurry or hazy immediately after the surgery. This is normal and should improve over time as your eye heals ;
- Sensitivity to light : Your eye may be sensitive to light, so it’s important to wear sunglasses when you go outside or in bright indoor settings ;
- Dry eyes : You may experience dry eyes, which can cause discomfort or a gritty feeling. Your doctor may recommend using eye drops to help lubricate your eyes ;
- Mild discomfort : You may experience some mild discomfort, such as a mild headache or a scratchy feeling in your eye. To alleviate any discomfort, over-the-counter pain relievers can provide relief ;
- Follow-up appointments : You will need to attend follow-up appointments with your doctor to monitor your eye’s healing progress and ensure that there are no complications ;
- Adjusting to the IOL : It may take some time to adjust to the artificial lens implant. Your vision may improve gradually over a few weeks or months after the surgery ;
- Prescription changes : After the surgery, you may need to adjust your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription to optimize your vision ;
It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for postoperative care and attend all scheduled follow-up appointments. If you experience any unusual symptoms, such as severe pain, vision loss, or eye discharge, contact your doctor immediately.
What are the possible complications following cataract surgery ?
Cataract surgery is a generally safe and effective procedure, but like any surgical procedure, there are potential risks and complications.
Here are some possible complications that may occur following on:
- Infection is a rare complication, but it can occur after cataract surgery. Signs of infection cataract surgery :
- Infectiinclude pain, redness, swelling, and discharge from the eye. In case you encounter any of these symptoms, it is crucial to promptly reach out to your doctor for immediate attention ;
- Swelling : Some swelling or inflammation is normal after surgery, but excessive swelling can cause discomfort and interfere with your vision ;
- Bleeding : In rare cases, bleeding may occur during or after surgery, leading to vision loss or other complications ;
- Retinal detachment : The retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, may become detached after surgery. Symptoms include sudden flashes of light or floaters in your vision ;
- Glaucoma : Cataract surgery can sometimes lead to increased eye pressure, which can cause glaucoma, a condition that damages the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss ;
- Secondary cataract : A secondary cataract, also known as posterior capsular opacification, can occur months or years after cataract surgery. This occurs when the membrane surrounding the artificial lens becomes cloudy, leading to blurry vision ;
It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions for postoperative care and attend all scheduled follow-up appointments to monitor your eye’s healing progress and ensure that there are no complications. If you experience any unusual symptoms, such as severe pain, vision loss, or eye discharge, contact your doctor immediately.