Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. This clouding of the lens of the eye due to the buildup of proteins affects over 22 million people over the age of 40 in the U.S alone. As the population ages, this number will grow.
At Central Valley Eye Medical Group, we are experts with cataract surgery, replacing clouded lenses with artificial intraocular lenses. We’ve recently added the LenSx® laser to our cataract surgery options for even greater precision and faster healing times.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts are common in older people. They develop when the lens of our eye, located behind the iris and the pupil, becomes cloudy. The lens focuses incoming images on the retina, which is located at the back of the eye. When we are young, our lenses are crystal clear. As we age, sun exposure and the buildup of proteins in the eye form clumps that begin to cloud the clear lens. This cloudiness progresses, eventually making it appear as if the person is looking out through a dirty window. Night vision is especially impacted.
Most people don’t even realize they are developing cataracts, as the progression is very gradual. Cataracts can develop in both eyes, but they don’t usually develop at the same time or rate. Eventually, the person begins to realize his or her vision is diminishing. In the U.S., an 80-year-old person has a 50/50 chance of having cataracts or already having had surgery to correct the condition. Cataract surgery to replace the permanently clouded lens is the only treatment.
What are the risk factors for developing cataracts?
The simple process of aging is the predominant factor in a person developing cataracts, but there are other risk factors involved:
- Excessive sun exposure
- Excessive alcohol use
- Exposure to radiation from cancer treatments
- High blood pressure
- Previous eye injury
- Previous eye surgery
- Prolonged use of corticosteroids
- Family history
What are the symptoms if I have cataracts?
The progression of cataracts is usually very slow, and you won’t know you have clouding until it impacts your vision. There is not any pain associated with cataracts.
These are the typical symptoms:
- Decreased color vibrancy
- Blurred vision
- Poor night vision
- Increased glare
- Halos surrounding lights
- Double vision
- Frequently changing eyeglass prescription
- A feeling there is a film over the eye
The only treatment for a cataract-clouded lens is surgery to remove the lens and replace it with an artificial lens. If left untreated, the cataract will continue to progress, eventually leading to blindness in the eye. But there is no reason to wait, as cataract surgery is one of the safest, most effective surgeries in the world. In the U.S., the success rate with this surgery is over 98 percent.
At Central Valley Eye Medical Group, we use minimally invasive, small-incision, no-stitch cataract surgery known as phacoemulsification (phaco) surgery. We utilize the LenSx® femtosecond laser for greater precision and accuracy. With laser cataract surgery, there is no need for a surgical blade.
We perform our laser cataract surgeries at our Valley Laser Surgery Center, located adjacent to our Stockton office. The surgery is remarkably fast, requiring only five to 10 minutes. Here’s how we do it.
The LenSx™ system first creates a 3D image of your eye for guidance. This allows our surgeons incredible accuracy when mapping the incision location. Next, the femtosecond laser creates the corneal incision and opens the anterior capsule of the lens. This gains access to the cataract-clouded lens. The incision is very small. If you have astigmatism, we use the laser at this point to created peripheral corneal incisions, which reduce the astigmatism. Then the laser makes a series of cuts in the cataract-clouded lens.
A probe is then inserted and delivers ultrasound energy that breaks up the cloudy lens into small pieces. At the same time, the probe uses suction to gently remove the small lens pieces. The earlier scoring of the lens reduces the amount of ultrasound energy needed to break up the cataract lens. The final step of the surgery is to insert the artificial intraocular lens (IOL). Today’s advanced IOLs are foldable and are inserted through the same small incisions through which the original lens was removed. You can read about your options for IOLs at Central Valley Eye by clicking on the various links. The small incision size doesn’t require any sutures; it seals water tight and will heal on its own.
Why is laser cataract surgery better?
At Central Valley Eye Medical Group, we stay at the forefront of eye surgery technology and the femtosecond laser is a jump forward. Here are some advantages to using the LenSx® laser for cataract surgery:
- The computer guidance provides greater surgical precision
- All incisions can be made with the laser. This removes the use of any surgical blades.
- Laser scoring of the clouded lens before removal reduces the amount of ultrasound energy needed to break up the lens.
What happens during recovery from laser cataract surgery?
After your 5-10 minute surgery, we’ll place a clear protective shield over the eye to wear when sleeping for the next several days. Your vision may be blurry at first, but this rapidly improves in just a day or two. Your eye may itch somewhat, but, obviously, you must not rub or touch the area. Heavy lifting, bending over, and other actions that create pressure on your eyes must be completely avoided. We provide you with eye drops that prevent inflammation and infection.
Full healing can take up to two months, but most patients notice a dramatic improvement and can return to normal activity in just a few days. You may or may not require glasses for some tasks after your surgery. This depends on the IOL you selected. If your other eye also has a cataract, we can usually schedule the second surgery as soon as two weeks after the first.
How long will my results last?
Your laser cataract surgery is permanent. The IOL will not cloud as your natural lens did. Also, depending on the IOL lens you chose, conditions that you formerly had such as near- or farsightedness may be fully corrected. You’ll enjoy your new clear vision for the rest of your life.
Are there risks with laser cataract surgery?
Complications after cataract surgery are very rare, and most of them can be successfully treated. These are the risks:
- Drooping eyelid
- Dislocation of the IOL
- Retinal detachment
- Loss of vision
Schedule An Appointment
If you are interested in getting Laser Cataract Surgery or would like to get more information on the procedure, call 1-800-244-9907