Treatment for Cataracts

Surgical removal of the clouded lens is the only "treatment" for a cataract. There are no medications, eye drops, exercises, or glasses that will improve the cataract. If the cataract is not removed, vision will continue to get worse and prescription glasses may no longer be effectual.

Monofocal IOL
Intraocular Lens Implant

Through cataract surgery, the natural lens is replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL) implant. IOLs are artificial lenses surgically implanted in the eye to regain the ability to see clearly. Cataract surgery is a painless, outpatient procedure performed under topical or local anesthesia. During surgery, after making a small incision in the cornea, a probe breaks up and removes the cataract-affected lens. Once the cloudy, natural lens is removed, the IOL is implanted. Typically, no stitches are necessary and the incision heals on its own with the aid of eye drops for a quick recovery.

When to have Cataract Surgery

Cataract-Affected Lens
Cataract-Affected Lens

If you have been diagnosed with a cataract by your regular eye doctor, it may be time to meet with a surgeon to discuss removal of the cataract. Medicare and insurance companies have stipulations on how badly the cataract must affect your vision before removing the clouded lens. If you have a cataract and increasing the prescription of your glasses or contacts still improves your vision, you may be able to postpone cataract surgery. However, the decision is ultimately up to you and if cataracts are keeping you from performing your daily tasks, it is likely time to proceed with surgery.

"A person should consider cataract surgery when their decreased vision is affecting their daily activities. When activities such as reading road signs, glare with headlights, and difficulty reading books becomes bothersome, that is the time to consider removing your cataract to improve your quality of living."
––Shawn Parker, MD, FACS, Corneal and Refractive Specialist

Although complex, advancements in technology have made cataract surgery one of the safest and most effective outpatient procedures. Less invasive surgical techniques have made the entire process safer with faster recovery times. Once you determine it is time to have your cataract removed, you should schedule a cataract evaluation exam with Dr. Shawn Parker in Marion, Ill. or Cape Girardeau, Mo. or Dr. Brad Stuckenscheider in Poplar Bluff, Mo. or Piedmont, Mo.

The Cataract Procedure Process

Cataract Evaluation

You will need to be seen by your surgeon for a complete evaluation in preparation for your cataract surgery. Typically, both eyes will undergo measurements at this one exam. However, you will have surgery on each eye separately, typically within two weeks.

Aside from choosing your surgeon, the intraocular lens (IOL) option you select is the most important decision regarding your cataract surgery. The IOL the surgeon implants during surgery is permanent and determines your vision for the rest of your life. At your cataract evaluation, your surgeon informs you of which IOLs are an option for your prescription and gives you information on the lenses available. Click here for more information about the IOL options Eye Care Specialists offers.

After determining which lens implant best suits your lifestyle, monofocal, multifocal, toric, or accommodative, some pre-operative measurements are taken to prescribe the proper lens strength and check the overall health of the eye. This may include:

  • Refraction (determines eyeglass prescription)
  • Axial Length (measures the length of the eye)
  • Visual Acuity (measures vision)
  • Biometry (a calculation for the intraocular lens)
  • Tonometry (measures the pressures inside the eye)
  • Slit-Lamp Exam (microscopic exam of the cornea)
  • Keratometry (measures the curvature of the cornea)
  • Dilated Exam (exam of the retina after dilation)

At this appointment, you will also receive prescription eye drops to fill prior to surgery. You begin using these drops two days before surgery, and continue to use them the day of surgery, and for a period of time after surgery.

You also receive a surgery date for your procedure, pre- and post-operative care instructions, and a consent form to sign and bring with you to the surgery center. The surgery center will call you prior to your surgery date to give you a procedure time and collect your medical history. Depending on the surgery center, you may need a pre-operative physical including blood and urine tests.

Click below to download a pdf of your drop instructions and pre- and post-operative information:

Before Surgery

Two days prior to surgery, begin the antibiotic drop and non-steroidal drop as instructed by your doctor.

The night before surgery, no food or drink should be consumed after midnight (when the surgery center calls with the appointment time for your surgery, they may instruct you on what you can eat or drink the morning of your surgery if your procedure is late in the day).

The morning of surgery, regular medications may be taken with a little sip of water. However, diabetic medication, blood thinners, or aspirin, should be discontinued as instructed by your doctor and the surgery center. If you take glaucoma medications, continue to use your drops as directed and be sure NOT to miss any doses. You may resume all your medications the day following surgery.

Please do not wear any jewelry to the surgery center. You will need someone with you to drive you home after surgery, as well as to your post-operative exam the following day.

The Procedure

Although eye surgery is intricate and complex, the typical cataract procedure lasts only 20 to 30 minutes. Although you are awake for the procedure, it is painless and you will not be able to see the actual surgery.

To begin, a surgical technician sterilizes around the eye and instills your prescription drops. A topical numbing drop or local injection numbs the eye. After making a small incision, your surgeon will break up and remove the cataract-affected lens. The surgeon then inserts the flexible IOL which unfolds for positioning to replace your natural lens.

You may have a patch over the eye when you leave the surgery center. Leave the patch on as instructed. Continue to wear the patch when sleeping for the first 5-7 days following surgery.

Recovery

It is very important that you do not rub your eye after your surgery. You should begin your prescription drops as instructed by your surgeon when you return home from the surgery center. Your eye will be examined the day after surgery by your surgeon or your primary care eye doctor and then at intervals determined by your doctor. During the immediate recovery period, you will place drops in your eyes for about 4 weeks, depending on your individual rate of healing. You should be able to resume your normal activities within 2 or 3 days. Glasses may still be required after surgery either for further improvement in your distance vision, reading vision, or both. Your eye will stabilize within 3 to 6 weeks, at which time glasses or contact lenses could be prescribed.

The following symptoms may be experienced after cataract surgery:

  • Mild discomfort, soreness, or scratchiness
  • Redness
  • Mild light sensitivity (may seem very bright to both eyes)
  • Mild blurring of vision
  • Drooping of the eyelid
  • Mild discharge (if excessive, call the doctor)
  • Flickering of light or a shadow in the peripheral vision

Most recovery times are minimal with little discomfort, however, all patients respond differently to surgery. If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact Eye Care Specialists immediately:

  • Sudden or nauseating pain in or around the eye that lasts for several hours and is not relieved by Tylenol or pain that continues to get worse
  • A sudden decrease or clouding of vision or loss of sight
  • Part of your vision missing or a curtain or shade coming over your vision with or without pain
  • Onset of new flashes of light or floaters
  • Bleeding around the eye

Cape Girardeau or Marion patients call 573-335-3577 or 800-455-3937.

Poplar Bluff or Piedmont patients call 573-686-5579 or after hours 573.718.4825.