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Cataracts are the most common cause of blindness in the United States among seniors, and are treated with surgery. Cataract removal is one of the most common surgeries in the United States with a proven record of safety and effectiveness. Cataract surgery involves the replacement of the natural lens in your eye with an artificial lens. For those who have undergone cataract surgery, 90% have improved vision afterwards.

BEFORE SURGERY

Your doctor will explain the procedure, risks and benefits, and will discuss the different types of lenses available. You will also have the opportunity to decide if you want to be awake for the surgery. Cataract surgery is nearly painless, and staying awake is common.

Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of each type of lens and will make recommendations based on your needs. Lenses are silicone or acrylic, with standard and premium options. Standard lenses adjust for near or distance vision, but not both, and may require glasses for some activities. Premium lenses offer a wider range of visual fields, reducing the need for glasses.

SURGERY

For most patients, surgery lasts less than an hour and is nearly painless. The first step is to dilate the pupil of the eye and to wash the area around the eye. If you’ve chosen to stay awake during your procedure, you will also be given an anesthetic to numb the nerves in and around your eye.

Your surgeon will make a small incision through which a thin probe will be inserted, and ultrasound will be used to break up your cataract, which will then be removed. Once the cataract has been removed, your surgeon will insert your new, artificial lens. Once inserted, you won’t be able to see or feel the new lens.

You will need to arrange for someone to give you a ride home as you will not be able to drive yourself.

RECOVERY

After surgery, a patch will be placed over the eye. You will spend time recovering at the hospital or clinic, where the staff will watch you for any signs of complications. You should plan to wear sunglasses during your ride home and anytime you go outside or will be around bright light that day. Most people are able to go back to their normal routine within two days, but full healing takes about a month.

Mild discomfort and visual disturbances are normal during the first few days. These may include distorted, wavy, or blurred vision; eye redness, irritation or itching in and around the eye; or general discomfort. Be careful not to rub or scratch your eyes during the healing process. As your eye begins to adjust to your lens implant, your vision will begin to improve.

The day after your procedure, you will have a follow-up appointment to be sure that your eye is healing properly. You will receive special eye drops to help your eye heal and to prevent infection and swelling. Although you will be able to get back to your routine fairly quickly, avoid intense exercise or heavy lifting for a few weeks.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

If you notice worsening vision or pain after your surgery, call your doctor’s office immediately for a follow-up appointment.

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