What is a cataract? A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye that blurs vision, causes glare and may impair your ability to drive. Cataracts occur naturally with age, but may also be caused by trauma, eye disease or genetic predisposition.
What can be done about your cataract? Should you wait?
Initially the blurry vision can improved with the use of glasses and good lighting for reading. Over time your vision will continue to deteriorate, the cataracts will not go away and you may wish to proceed with surgery. The cataract is usually removed when it starts to significantly affect your daily life.
How is the cataract removed?
During cataract surgery your clouded natural lens is removed using a procedure called phacoemulsification (“phaco”) and a new artificial lens, specially selected to restore your vision, is inserted through a tiny opening. The whole process takes 10-15 minutes and no overnight hospital stay is required. Dr. McCarthy also offers femtosecond laser assisted cataract surgery. This is the latest, and most advanced, innovation in cataract surgery. This technique reduces the energy required to remove the cataract, reduces trauma to the surrounding tissue and increases the precision of surgical incisions and capsulorrhexis.
Is cataract surgery safe? Through continual improvements in surgical technique, instrumentation and lens technology, the risks and complications of cataract surgery have been greatly reduced. Today, the chance of a serious complication is less than 1 in 100. Cataract removal is one of the safest surgeries with over 30 thousand performed in British Columbia and 14 million worldwide every year. How long does it take to heal? Healing time varies. Initially vision should improve quite rapidly, but optimal vision usually takes about 2-4 weeks. Certain pre-existing health conditions can affect recovery time.
What are the possible complications of cataract surgery? Complications are rare and most are treatable. Possible complications include posterior capsular opacification, inflammation, infection, lens dislocation, swelling of the retina and retinal detachment. There are certain health and eye conditions that increase your risk of complications. You should discuss your general health conditions with Dr. McCarthy. What kind of vision should I expect after cataract surgery? Will I need to wear glasses? The vision you attain after cataract surgery largely depends on your personal preference and lens choice. The standard choice is a monofocal lens which gives you either good distance (driving, outdoors) or near (reading) vision—but not both. You will still need to wear glasses for some tasks and to achieve clearest possible vision you may need glasses for both distance and near. With a monofocal lens, the choice of vision should reflect your daily activities. If you are a person who reads a lot, you may want a lens that gives you good reading vision and then wear glasses for distance. On the other hand, if you are a person who likes spending time outdoors you probably will prefer to have good distance vision and wear glasses for reading. A monofocal lens with clear distance vision is the most popular choice. In order to achieve these goals specialized lenses and advanced testing may be required. It is most important to consider your personal circumstances and discuss them with Dr. McCarthy. Are there other lens options?
There are specialized lenses that can give you both near and distance vision without glasses (multifocal lens) and lenses than correct preexisting astigmatism (toric lens). Not everyone is a candidate for a specialized lens. You should speak to Dr. McCarthy to determine if such a lens might be right for you.
Please contact Dr. McCarthy’s office for the latest wait times at Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital in Vancouver and Surrey Memorial Hospital and Valley Surgical Centre in Surrey. Dr. McCarthy performs Femtosecond assisted cataract surgery at Cambie Surgical Centre and expedited standard phacoemulsification at Valley Surgical Centre.