Cataract Surgery Explained
Cataract surgery remains one of the most commonly performed and successful procedures in all of medicine. Numerous studies have confirmed what our patients already know, that quality of life is greatly enhanced for those who undergo surgery for visually significant cataracts. Seeing the excitement from our patients and hearing about their return to the activities and hobbies that bring them pleasure is truly special.
What is a Cataract?
“Cataract” is the term used to describe a clouding or opacification of the natural crystalline lens inside the eye. Much like the lens of a camera focuses an image to be captured, the crystalline lens focuses light rays entering the eye onto the retina.
Cataracts typically begin developing in middle age and are often without symptoms in the early stages. Glasses can be adjusted to account for visual changes when the cataracts are still mild. As time progresses, the cloudiness of the cataract also progresses, and once a decline in vision negatively impacts activities of everyday life, cataract surgery may be considered.
Cataract surgery itself is basically a two-step procedure. First, the cataract must be removed from its support capsule. Next, an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant is placed inside the eye and into the very same capsule that formerly held the cloudy lens.
Cataract Surgery at Florida Medical Clinic
During a surgical consultation at Florida Medical Clinic Eye Specialists, the options for cataract surgery are introduced and the patient and family members are more deeply educated about each of these options.
Ultimately, a customized surgical plan is created to help achieve the specific visual goals of each of our patients. Important considerations discussed in the office when deciding upon this plan and choice of IOL include:
- History of glasses and/or contact lens wear
- Preference (or not) for wearing glasses following surgery
- Prior eye surgeries including refractive surgery (LASIK) or retinal surgery
- Activities or hobbies including reading, sports, and driving/ night driving
- Amount of astigmatism (corneal curvature) as measured pre-operatively
Patients with minimal astigmatism who seek correction for either distance or near tasks may opt for a standard monofocal (single-power) lens implant. These patients will typically wear reading glasses when the lens implants correct for distance vision or distance glasses when the lens implants correct for near vision.
Patients who either naturally or via contact lenses/ prior refractive surgery are functioning as “monovision” patients with one eye corrected for distance and the other corrected for near may opt to maintain this arrangement post-operatively. Not everyone is a candidate for monovision, and reduced depth perception can be a trade-off for patients who undergo monovision correction.
For patients with astigmatism, we recommend correcting the astigmatism at the time of surgery to enhance the visual quality and minimize the need for glasses for at least some activities after surgery. We use femtosecond laser technology and unique lens implants called “toric” lenses to correct astigmatism. Patients will typically need reading glasses post-operatively when corrected for distance with astigmatism reduction. This is what the majority of our patients choose for their cataract surgery procedure.
Many patients, of course, would like to be free of all glasses after cataract surgery. For the last two decades, lens implant manufacturers have sought to develop innovative IOLs to make this dream possible. In late 2019, the FDA approved the PanOptix® lens implant from Alcon, the first true trifocal lens on the market here in the United States. A trifocal lens is uniquely designed to allow clear vision at all three important focal points: distance, intermediate, and near. We became one of the first practices in the country to begin implanting this exciting new lens, and the early results have been outstanding. Astigmatism correction is possible as well, making this the preferred option for any patient with otherwise healthy eyes who seeks maximum freedom from glasses.
It’s an exciting time to be a cataract surgeon or surgery patient! The technological innovations in our field are truly remarkable, and achieving great outcomes is the focus of our surgical practice at FMC Eye Specialists. I invite anyone with cataracts to visit our website to learn more, and to visit our practice for an in-depth consultation when considering surgery for you or a loved one.
About Mark L. Arey, MD
Dr. Arey is a board-certified ophthalmologist and cataract surgery specialist at Florida Medical Clinic Eye Specialists with offices in Tampa and Land O’ Lakes. Dr. Arey graduated from the University of Virginia and Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and completed his ophthalmology and surgical training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center/ Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. He is a husband and father of three young children, and has coached soccer, basketball, and baseball teams in area youth organizations for the past decade.