A cataract is an eye disease that causes the normally clear lens of the eye to become cloudy and opaque, which results in a decrease in vision. Cataracts are very common and usually age related, with most developing after the age of 40. Many times, patients of our San Diego laser eye surgery center realize a cataract is present only when they start to experience disruptions in their vision. It is possible, and common, to live for years with a cataract before experiencing symptoms. Because of this, cataracts are often found during routine eye examinations with our patients completely unaware of the developing cataract.
For patients who are not experiencing any symptoms of cataracts, treatment is not usually required. In their earliest stages, some symptoms of cataracts can be treated with eyeglasses. While patients can live with cataracts for years, once symptoms develop, the only effective treatment is cataract surgery. When everyday activities are affected, such as driving at night, reading, and seeing faces clearly, surgery is strongly recommended.
Cataract Surgery Techniques
For San Diego cataracts surgery patients, there are two treatment options to consider: phacoemulsification, or phaco, and extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE). During both cataract surgical techniques, a topical anesthetic (eye drops) is most commonly used. If necessary, a sedative may be administered to San Diego cataract surgery patients who are experiencing anxiety. A medication injection may be used to prevent blinking and eye movement during the procedure. Phaco and ECCE are performed on an outpatient basis.
- Phacoemulsification or “phaco”: Phacoemulsification is the most common surgical technique used in the treatment of cataracts. During phaco, tiny incisions are made in the cornea. These incisions create an opening on the surface of the lens. An ultrasound probe is inserted, and the lens is dissolved with ultrasonic vibrations. This breaks the lens into tiny fragments that are then suctioned out using the same ultrasound probe. After this is completed, an intraocular lens (IOL) is implanted into the empty lens capsule. One of the greatest advantages of this cataract surgery technique is that it usually requires no stitches to close the incisions.
- Extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE): A less used cataract surgery technique is ECCE. This technique requires stitches, which leads to a longer recovery period. For San Diego cataracts patients with very advanced cataracts, the lens may be too dense to be removed using phacoemulsification. During ECCE, a large incision is made to remove the entire lens at once. Once the lens has been removed, an IOL is placed in the empty lens capsule. ECCE requires large sutures to close the wound created by the incision. Visual recovery often takes longer when using this technique, and some patients may have to wear an eye patch after the procedure is performed.
Contact North County Laser Eye Associates
To learn more about cataract surgery techniques, please contact North County Laser Eye Associates today.