When vision cannot be corrected with glasses, the most common reason is the presence of a cataract. A cataract is a cloudy natural lens. Diet, exercise, lasers and drops cannot reverse clouding of the human lens but the cloudy lens can be removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens, called an intraocular lens, or IOL. IOLs are often made of acrylic, with is like a soft plastic. The IOL can be very precisely made and then rolled up like a cigarette and placed inside the eye through a very tiny opening. The IOL can’t be seen and won’t wear out.
During cataract surgery, a small incision is made in the side of the cornea (the clear part of the eye that covers the iris and the pupil), and a tiny instrument is inserted. This instrument uses high-frequency ultrasound to break up the cloudy lens. The lens is removed and then replaced with the IOL. This procedure is called phacoemulsification.
A normal human lens is about the same size and shape as an M&M. And just like an M&M, it has an inside part and an outside part. During cataract surgery, only the inside part of the lens is removed. The outside part of the lens (like a hollow, transparent candy shell) is left in place to contain the IOL.
Because the incision is specially constructed and very small, no stitches or patching is required, and because the IOL is placed within the transparent outside part of the original lens, it can’t move, or be felt, or rub on any sensitive structures inside the eye.
Cataract surgery is an out-patient procedure performed in an operating room. Most individuals who undergo cataract surgery are able to return to work the following day. Learn more about post-operative cataract surgery care here.
Cataract Surgery Q&A
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cataracts, or think you may have cataracts, we can answer any questions you may have about cataract surgery. Here are some of the most common questions we answer in our office:
When is cataract surgery done?
With rare exception, cataract surgery is only performed when your vision is reduced because of a cataract, and glasses or contact lenses no longer give you satisfactory vision.
Where is cataract surgery done?
All of our cataract surgeries are performed in one of the operating rooms in the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital.
How long does cataract surgery take? Does it hurt?
Cataract surgery typically takes 5-10 minutes. Your eye may feel dry for several hours after surgery, but the surgery and the recovery are generally painless.
How long will I have to be away from work after surgery?
Most people return to full duties at work the day after cataract surgery.
How long after surgery will I have to wear an eye patch?
Usually, there is no eye patch. Your eye is open and seeing immediately after surgery, although it may require a couple of weeks to get your very best vision.
Does cataract surgery eliminate my need for glasses?
It can. The main purpose of cataract surgery is to improve your best vision, that is – your vision with glasses. Additionally, cataract surgery can significantly reduce – and sometimes even eliminate – your need for glasses.
If I don't want to wear glasses after cataract surgery, is there an extra charge?
Not necessarily. There are extra charges for things like ‘premium lenses’ and ‘laser cataract surgery.’ However usually, the need for glasses can be dramatically reduced without either.
Don't 'laser cataract surgery' and 'premium lenses' give better results?
Not necessarily. Our aim is to make you see and function as well as possible. Parker Cornea is fortunate to be able to select from the latest and best tools to achieve those ends.