Cataracts

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cataracts Pictures Slideshow

Quick GuideCataracts Causes, Symptoms, Vision Tests and Surgery

Cataracts Causes, Symptoms, Vision Tests and Surgery

What are the different types of cataract surgery, and what risks are involved?

Cataract surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia. Some sedation is ordinarily given intravenously just before the beginning of the surgery, which usually takes under a half-hour.

Most cataract surgery today is done through a small incision by phaco-emulsification or by other extracapsular means through a slightly larger incision. In more than 95% of cases, a new lens, known as a lens implant or intraocular lens is inserted at the same time as the cataract removal. You will not feel the new lens within the eye. Most patients need to limit their activities for only a few days and recovery time is brief.

Although modern techniques have made cataract surgery quite safe, complications can occur with any surgical procedure, including cataract extraction. These include hemorrhage, infection, loss of a portion of the cataract into the eye, displacement of the intraocular lens, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. Fortunately, all these complications are rare and usually can be managed. Blindness is a rare complication of cataract surgery.

Modern cataract surgery involves leaving a portion of the lens capsule within the eye to support the intraocular lens. This capsule may become cloudy at a later time, necessitating opening of the capsule through the use of a laser. This outpatient procedure is called a YAG laser capsulotomy. It is painless and rarely results in increased eye pressure or other eye problems.

What are complications of cataracts?

Occasionally, a very dense cataract of long-standing duration may enlarge in size and interfere with fluid drainage within the eye. In addition, a far advanced cataract may leak protein into the eye, causing inflammation of the eye. Your doctor will advise you of these possibilities and may recommend surgery to avoid these complications even if the decrease in vision is not bothering you.

The presence of a cataract may make evaluation of diseases of the retina more difficult, since the physician must look through the cataract to examine the retina.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015

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