What’s the difference between refractive cataract surgery and standard cataract surgery?

It basically comes down to how much you care about wearing glasses after surgery. There is no difference in safety between the two. If you don’t mind wearing readers or bifocals after cataract surgery, there is no reason to get refractive cataract surgery. If you want to be able to read a newspaper or see which bottle is shampoo in the shower without glasses, then refractive cataract surgery is a better choice for you.

What is the new intra-ocular lens made of?

Every cataract surgery involves placing an IOL where the old, cloudy lens once sat. The new artificial lens is made out of acrylic the vast majority of the time (we only use acrylic lenses here at Hunter Vision.) This inert material has been used in eyes for over half a century and hasn’t caused allergic reactions inside the eye in tens of millions of cases, so it has a pretty impressive safety record to ease your mind.

How do I know when I need cataract surgery?

When you can no longer do the things that you want to do as well as you want to do them because your vision isn’t good enough, you’re ready for cataract surgery. You’d need to see an eye doctor (perhaps us!) to confirm that it is a cataract causing the poor vision, but that is a diagnosis you can cheer for because it means your vision can probably be made better than you remember it being before it went bad.

Does cataract surgery hurt?

No. Since you need to trust the people helping you through this process, we try to be really honest about pain and discomfort so you’re not surprised at any point. To be fully transparent, the drop that numbs your eye burns a bit, but it is the same type of numbing drop that you’ve had at every eye exam when getting a yearly check up. If you want a step-by-step of the (non-painful) sensations you can expect, we’re happy to go through that with you when we meet.

Should I get a multifocal IOL? I’ve heard about “premium” IOLs and that seems like it would be the best option.

Maybe! Multifocal IOLs are amazing for those who are excellent candidates for them. But remember, these are your eyes, so we all can narrow our focus on what is uniquely best for you. That’s the big idea behind the advanced imaging and time with your surgeon: together, we can figure out what will give you the best vision for near and distance based on your specific needs.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye. If there is a cloud outside and we can't see well, we call it fog. If there is a cloud in your lens and you can’t see well, we call it a cataract.

Does everyone get cataracts?

There is a clear lens inside each person's eye that slowly changes from clear to cloudy over the course of their life. The lens inside the eye is the clearest it will ever be before you are 10 years old. For each birthday after that, it gets a little more dense, a little less clear, and lets a little less quality light in than it did the previous year. When you are no longer able to see as well as you need to, that lens which has been changing for decades, graduates to being called a cataract. It happens to us all.

Can cataracts be fixed without surgery?

While scientists are working on medicines that may help slow the changing of the lens, there is currently no medical way to prevent cataracts. It follows that there is no way to fix them without surgery either.

What happens if I don't have my cataracts removed?

The vision will slowly get worse over time. While it is very rare for cataracts to become a danger to your health (as untreated diabetes or hypertension would), they always make the vision worse instead of better. If left long enough, hyper mature cataracts (a very severe form) can reduce the vision down to the point where a person is only able to tell if there is a light shining in their eye or not.

Is cataract surgery safe?

Yes. Since it is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world, the safety and efficacy of modern cataract surgery has had a lot of time to be perfected to its current level. While any surgery has inherent risks and possible complications, they are thankfully either quite minor or quite rare. We can go over specific possible complications with each patient to clarify any questions relating to their particular case.

Are cataracts a disease?

In its broadest definition, yes, because a disease is when any part of the body is not working as well as it should be. This is the reason that insurance covers cataract surgery. But since we tend to think of diseases in terms of infection, inflammation, or being contagious, cataracts are not a disease as we normally would define one. They sit safely in your eye, causing no trouble except for blurring the vision in the vast majority of cases.

Does insurance cover cataract surgery?

Yes. If someone has cataracts that are decreasing their quality of life, then insurance will pay for cataract surgery. Insurance will pay to get the cloudy lens out of the eye, and replace it with a clear lens (called an intra-ocular lens, or IOL). After that, a patient will still need glasses to correct refractive error -- that is, for reading and computer vision, and possibly distance vision -- but the view will be "clear" again. Many patients now have the option to choose lenses that will allow freedom from glasses not possible with basic IOL's, but currently, insurance will only pay for the most basic IOL.

Can I correct astigmatism with cataract surgery?

Yes. Astigmatism can be "cured" with either a special procedure performed during the cataract surgery, a special IOL placed in the eye after the cataract is removed, or by LASIK after the procedure.

Can I avoid having glasses or contacts after cataract surgery?

The answer to this question used to be, “there is no way to avoid glasses after cataract surgery.” Many people needed glasses for distance vision, and virtually everyone required glasses for computer and reading vision. Special lenses, called Premium IOL's have now become available that can correct astigmatism, allow people to see well in the distance without glasses, and even correct near vision without the need for reading glasses. Also, through a special technique called “blended vision,” patients can achieve glasses independence for reading, computer, and distance vision. These special diagnostics and/or IOL's are not covered by insurance, but can be easily substituted in place of a basic IOL because the surgical procedure is nearly identical to traditional cataract surgery.

How long is the recovery from cataract surgery?

People are usually back to their regular activities the next day. We ask that people hold off on lifting things heavier than a gallon of milk and avoid swimming for a week. While there are a few limited restrictions like this, cataract surgery has a pretty effortless recovery compared to most other events with the word “surgery” in them.

When should I have my cataract removed?

The answer to that is simple. You should have your cataract removed when you are no longer able to do things that you want to do because of your vision. This time comes for different people in different ways. Some can't stand having poor night vision and want cataract surgery as soon as possible to fix it, others will be fine with much blurrier vision and wait until they cannot read well even with glasses. Neither of those cataracts will be more difficult to remove.

Is cataract surgery painful?

Amazingly, people describe the normal surgical and healing process as painless. It seems like it would be painful to have a procedure done to the eye, but the total area disturbed on the surface is just over a tenth of an inch, and heals in a few hours.

Can cataracts come back after surgery?

No. When they are gone, they're gone. About 50% of patients will benefit from a one-time, 60-second, painless laser procedure at some point after the surgery if the capsule holding the new IOL gets cloudy (this is also covered by insurance). Outside of that, the vision will generally stay stable or even improve over the long term as long as the rest of the eye stays healthy.
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