Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States. Over 1.5 million people undergo the procedure every year, and approximately 90% of patients report improved vision afterwards. Surgery is performed on an outpatient basis using local anesthetic and generally takes an hour or less to complete. As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur during or after surgery, but in most cases, both vision and quality of life are improved.
Cataract surgery involves removal of the cloudy lens and replacement with a permanent, artificial lens known as an intraocular lens. There are two types of cataract surgery:
Phacoemulsification is the most common form of cataract surgery. The surgeon makes a small incision on the side of the cornea and inserts a probe that uses ultrasound waves to break up the lens. Once the diseased lens has been removed, the surgeon implants an intraocular lens.
Extracapsular extraction is generally used to remove larger, more advanced cataracts. In this procedure, a longer incision is made on the side of the cornea, allowing the surgeon to extract the cloudy core of the lens in one piece and implant an intraocular lens.
Following surgery, most patients will notice improved vision within a few days. Generally, full recovery can be expected within eight weeks. If a patient has cataracts in both eyes, two separate surgeries will be performed 4-8 weeks apart.