Cataract Surgery

As you get older, it’s common for cataracts to form in your eyes. Cataracts cloud your eyes’ natural lenses and alter your ability to see and focus clearly. Eventually, surgical repair is usually the most effective treatment.

Types of Cataract Surgery

There are two primary types of cataract surgery available, manual and laser. Manual cataract surgery is available at all our ophthalmology locations. Laser cataract surgery is available in select communities Your doctor can help determine the best surgical approach for your cataracts.

Manual Cataract Surgery

With manual (often called traditional) cataract surgery, your eye surgeon:

  • Creates a small incision in the side of your eye with a hand-held blade.
  • Uses a microsurgical instrument to create an opening in the lens capsule.
  • Inserts a special pen-shaped probe through the opening to apply sound waves (ultrasound) to break up the cloudy lens.
  • Suctions out the pieces of the lens.
  • Implants an artificial (intraocular) lens to replace the cloudy natural lens that has been removed.

The incision is filled with a special liquid and seals on its own after surgery, so stitches normally aren’t needed.

Laser Cataract Surgery

During laser cataract surgery, your eye surgeon uses a computerized laser, instead of a handheld blade, to make an incision, remove the cataract and implant a new clear lens.

Before making an incision, your surgeon uses a computer to map the surface of your eye. This information is used to program the laser for the exact location, size and depth of the incision. Incisions made with a laser are self-sealing and rarely need stitches.

Your surgeon then uses the laser and other instruments to:

  • Create an opening in the surrounding membrane. This opening is used to remove the cataract.
  • Soften the cataract and divide it into smaller pieces.
  • Breaks up the lens using sound waves (ultrasound). With laser surgery, less energy is needed, which reduces trauma to the eye and the potential for inflammation.
  • Suctions out the pieces of the lens.
  • Implants an artificial (intraocular) lens to replace the cloudy natural lens.

Preparing for Cataract Surgery

The thought of surgery on your eyes can be frightening, but cataract surgery is a common, safe and effective outpatient procedure that normally takes less than 30 minutes.

Your Mercy care team will help you understand what to expect before, during and after cataract surgery. We’ll also review surgical options and help you make certain treatment decisions.

Cataract surgery is generally covered by Medicare or insurance, but you may have out-of-pocket costs, depending on the intraocular lens you choose. Your eye care provider will explain your options, insurance coverage and out-of-pocket costs prior to surgery.

Choosing an Intraocular Lens

You’ll have an opportunity to choose the replacement lens that’s right for you. There are three main options.

Monofocal Lenses

Monofocal replacement lenses are used to restore vision for one area of focus – usually distance. Following surgery, glasses or bifocals may still be needed to help you read and see up close. These lenses are normally covered by insurance.

Multifocal Lenses

Multifocal replacement lenses provide sharp vision at multiple distances – from near to far. Choosing a multifocal lens can reduce the need for glasses, particularly for reading. There are several types of multifocal lenses, so talk to your doctor about available options. These lenses typically have an additional out-of-pocket cost.

Toric Lenses

Some patients have blurred vision due to an irregularly shaped cornea. This is called astigmatism. Toric lenses are designed to help correct astigmatism. There are monofocal and multifocal toric lens options. These lenses typically have an additional out-of-pocket cost.

Glaucoma and Cataracts

For patients who have both glaucoma and cataracts, Mercy offers minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries. Patients with mild to moderate open-angle glaucoma can benefit from this approach that combines cataract surgery with glaucoma treatment. This approach reduces surgical and post-operative complications, compared to traditional glaucoma filtration surgery.

Cataract surgery is normally done one eye at a time. If you need surgery in both eyes, the second surgery will be scheduled shortly after the first.

In many cases, your personal optometrist will provide the follow-up care you need as your eyes heal after each surgery. He or she will work closely with your ophthalmologist to ensure a smooth transition. 

The right approach to cataract surgery and the right lens can help you experience better vision, better health and a better quality of life. 

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