Cataracts

Almost everyone will develop cataracts if they live long enough. There are different kinds of cataracts but they usually develop in both eyes. Often, one eye may progress a little faster than the other so it may seem like it’s only the blurriest eye that has the problem. The exception to this rule is a traumatic cataract where a past eye injury has led to a clouding of the lens in the affected eye. Patients who have to be on high doses of prednisone for long periods of time often get a special type of cataract called a posterior subcapsular cataract. Diabetics tend to form cataracts earlier in life than non-diabetics and have an elevated risk of complications with cataract surgery.

In order to understand the normal process which ends in cataract formation one must know a few background items: The adjustable focus lens inside the eye begins to change, becoming denser, when we are very young. Usually there are no noticeable symptoms until around the age of 40 when the increased density makes the lens less able to adjust focus for different viewing distances. Far-sighted patients typically will run into this problem sometime before they reach 40.

As the process continues the lens eventually starts to become cloudy. At some point symptoms may start to develop, some of which may be subtle at first since this is usually a gradual process. Many patients notice in their fifties that driving at night has become more difficult. It is harder to see the contrast between the edge of the road and the ditch if there are no painted lines. Oncoming headlights become almost blinding for some patients. Another common problem with advancing cataracts is the need for bright light to read compared to what was previously needed.

At some point cataracts will cause a drop in vision as measured on the eye chart that cannot be adequately cleared with a change in prescription. This finding is one of the ways the doctor determines when it is time to consider cataract surgery. Another consideration is the actual appearance of the patients lens. The doctor uses an instrument called a biomicroscope to look directly at the forming cataracts and follow their progress over time. It may become necessary to start re-evaluating every 6 months instead of once a year as cataracts start progressing. The decision to go for cataract evaluation with an eye surgeon is one that our doctors and the patient arrive at together. It depends on many factors including the ones mentioned above, the visual demands in the patients everyday life, the overall health of the patient, and the fact that cataracts can become so dense that they become more risky to remove.

When the time comes for cataract surgery, we’ll be happy to recommend a surgeon or to work with the surgeon of your choosing. Usually we provide the post-operative care at one week following surgery and again at one month after surgery. Patients are on eye drops to quiet the inflammation of surgery and to prevent infection. The healing process usually takes 4-6 weeks and we will be monitoring you for any complications. Most patients have healed to the point that post-op eyeglasses can be prescribed and fitted at the 4 week post-op visit. Medicare patients have these visits recognized as reimbursable under an agreement between the surgeon and our doctor called co-management. Medicare also recognizes the need for a change in glasses following cataract surgery and they will pay a portion of the cost in this situation. (It is the only time they will). With cataracts we wait for the first eye to completely heal before going on to the second eye. Sometimes the second eye doesn’t even need to be done for quite some time.

As far as the actual procedure of cataract surgery, many patients find it comforting to know that it is the most commonly done surgical procedure in the U.S. every year. Although cataract surgery cannot be done with a laser, it can be accomplished with an incision less than 1/2 the width of your fingernail. There is little if any pain. The actual time the surgeon is operating is only about 10 minutes. The risk rate of complications is very reduced due to the newer microsurgical techniques. The surgeons our doctors usually recommend will even choose an implant that will reduce your near or far-sightedness. Some patients with larger amounts of astigmatism will receive an extra incision which can reduce this problem as well. The end result can mean thinner lenses in the glasses prescribed after surgery for patients who have always had thick glasses, or in some cases only reading glasses are necessary!

We recognize that any surgery, and especially eye surgery, is not something our patients would like to have to consider. Our doctors and staff are committed to helping you through this process that we have experienced many times. We have top quality eye surgeons in our area who strive to make your visit very comfortable and even enjoyable. If you have questions in the decision making process or about the procedure, just ask. If you have apprehension, we’ll sit down and talk about it. We’ve had hundreds of patients who’ve had cataract surgery but we’ll always remember that it’s your first time.

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Address:
2205 S. Seneca
Wichita, KS 67213

Hours:
M-F: 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Phone:
316.264.9131

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