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Cataracts And Foldable Lens Implants

Cataracts are a common cause of vision impairment in adults 55 and over. If left untreated, they can interfere with simple tasks such as reading and driving. But today, out-patient surgery offers a safe and effective option for treating cataracts. With the introduction of small incision surgery and foldable lenses, patients can expect to recover and enjoy clearer vision more quickly than ever before.

What is a cataract?

Normally, the lens focuses light on the retina in the back of the eye to produce a clear image. But with a cataract, the lens gradually clouds over and hardens. Like steam covering a window, the cataract blocks light from reaching the retina and obstructs vision. As a result, the patient sees a hazy or blurred image.

Small incision cataract surgery with foldable lens implants

Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most common surgical procedures performed today. During a quick outpatient procedure, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced by a plastic lens (IOL) implant. The artificial lens focuses light just like the patient’s natural lens. The advanced surgery technique used today is most often performed with ultrasound technology (phacoemulsification) through a very small incision. This technique shortens recovery time and restores patients’ vision faster than other techniques.

What is phacoemulsification?

Phacoemulsification or “phaco” is a surgical technique which dissolves the cataract, through a tiny incision, using high-frequency ultrasound waves. A thin probe introduced through the incision focuses ultrasound waves on the cataract, gently breaking (or emulsifying) it into many pieces. The pieces are then removed through the tip of the probe.
Where traditional cataract surgery requires an incision that spans a third of the cornea’s circumference and needs as many as eight stitches to close, this small self-sealing incision technique can be performed through an opening less than 1/6 of an inch wide.

Foldable Lens Implants

These new lenses are made of a flexible material which allows them to be folded. The folded lens implant is small enough to fit through the tiny phaco incision. The incision is so small that it usually does not require any stitches. The natural pressure inside the eye holds the incision closed which the eye heals.

What are the advantages of small incision surgery with foldable lens implants?

Small incision surgery with foldable lenses not only speeds the healing and recovery process, but also reduces the risk of possible complications. In traditional surgery, if the sutures are tied too tightly, the patient my be left with astigmatism or distorted vision. Vision will often remain blurred until natural healing corrects the astigmatism or until the sutures are removed.
On the other hand, if the sutures are tied too loosely, the incision may leak or rupture. With a small incision that does not require sutures, there is no risk of leakage or rupture.

The Procedure

The phaco procedure takes less than 30 minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis. Before surgery, the doctor uses anesthetic drops to numb the eye. The patient may also be given a sedative to keep them comfortable during the procedure.
The doctor first makes a tiny opening in the sclera or cornea, through which the cataract is dissolved using phaco. The folded lens is inserted through the same small incision. Once inside the eye, the lens reopens and slides into place.

Good Vision Without Glasses?

Most patients can expect a rapid return to good vision following small incision cataract surgery. Since the incision for a foldable lens is smaller than an incision for a traditional lens, recovery can take as little as one to two days. In many cases, patients are able to see relatively well without glasses the day after surgery. Lens implant surgery can correct some refractive errors, like astigmatism, myopia and hyperopia. However, some patients will need to wear glasses for reading and other activities following the procedure. Before surgery, an evaluation and discussion with the doctor are necessary to determine potential benefits and possible risks.
“Secondary” cataracts may develop following cataract surgery. If this occurs, an outpatient laser procedure can quickly restore good vision.

Is small incision cataract surgery for everyone?

Small incision techniques using foldable lens implants typically require no stitches, which speeds the healing process. However, the technique may not be appropriate for every patient. Some patients, because of their eye structure of other health factors, are not good candidates for small incision surgery. In these cases, patients can benefit from traditional surgical procedures.

Sight loss can be prevented

Although there is no way to prevent cataracts, you can reduce your risk of losing sight from the disease. If you are experiencing the symptoms of cataracts or other vision problems, see the doctor for a complete eye examination. If caught in the early stages when vision loss begins to interfere with everyday activities, cataracts can be removed quickly and good vision restored.

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