The most common cause of cataracts is the normal aging process. As we grow older, the lens of the eye tends to gradually lose its clarity and become cloudy. The result is a decrease in the quality of vision. The time to consider cataract surgery is when the quality of your life begins to suffer.
If you feel you may have cataracts, or have already been diagnosed with cataracts, it is helpful to understand how to prepare for cataract surgery and the choices now available to you.
What to expect during your cataract evaluation
During your cataract evaluation, your eyes will be examined by a doctor. This is to assess the overall health of your eye. Should you be diagnosed with cataracts during that exam, you will likely meet with a patient care counselor who will talk to you about what to expect before during and after cataract surgery.
What happens during cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is the only way a cataract can be removed. This surgery involves creating a very small opening through which the natural lens of your eye (which has become yellow and hardened) is removed. Once that lens is removed, it is replaced with a new artificial lens.
The surgical treatment for cataracts has dramatically evolved over the years. Cataract surgery patients have come to expect excellent vision after surgery. Today, a process known as phacoemulsification allows the cataract to be removed through a tiny self healing incision. Once the lens is removed, a small, foldable intraocular lens is inserted which unfolds to replace the cloudy lens. With the advancements in technology, you now have a choice of what type of lens can be used; either a basic lens or an advanced technology lens. Your doctor will discuss with you which lens option will best match your visual demands and lifestyle.
Which cataract lens is right for you?
Previous cataract surgery technologies provided only one focal point: e.g. distance vision; leaving people dependent upon reading glasses or bifocals. Recent advancements in lens technology now make it possible for you to read the words on prescription bottles, magazines, newspapers and computer screens without reading glasses or bifocals while still seeing objects clearly at a distance.
These lenses are not for everyone and some additional testing is necessary to determine if you are a candidate for advanced technology lenses. Most patients who have chosen advanced technology intraocular lenses are very happy with the results.
Cataract surgery and insurance
Most insurance policies will cover a basic (monofocal) lens that will provide good vision at one distance (typically with the need for glasses), provided there are no other problems with the health of your eye. If you used corrective lenses prior to cataract surgery, you may need some type of corrective lenses after surgery as well.
You can expect that your insurance or health care plan will pay for the outpatient surgery center fee, the cost of anesthesia, as well as the surgeon fee for cataract surgery, less any deductible or co-pay requirements. If, during your cataract surgery evaluation, your doctor determines you are candidate for some of the advanced treatment options that increase the likelihood that you may not have to wear glasses regularly, these options will be reviewed with you.
Note: The advanced vision treatment options available to you are not covered by insurance.
It will be important for you to ask questions and address your concerns about the surgery during your initial evaluation and counseling.
Additional evaluation by your primary care physician
You will likely also visit your primary care physician to ensure your general health is good and you are medically fit for surgery. Your primary care physician may test you for high blood pressure, diabetes and other health issues that can adversely affect the surgery, your recovery, or require additional precautions.
How to prepare: One week before cataract surgery
About one week before cataract surgery, you will have an appointment with your eye doctor to perform a few tests. These tests are painless and allow the doctor to determine which lens implant to use during your surgery.
At this time, you normally make appointments for follow-up visits and you’ll want to make specific plans for the day of the surgery. You will not be able to drive yourself home from the procedure, so arrange a ride with a friend or family member ahead of time.
Most patients are able to return to normal activities within 48 hours of surgery; but those first hours can be tricky as your eyes adjust. If you or your loved one lives alone, it is highly recommended to plan for someone to help out with chores and to be on call for additional help.
How to prepare: the night before cataract surgery
Your eye care provider may give you eye drops or medication to take the evening before the surgery. Make certain you follow those instructions precisely. You will also need to abstain from alcohol the night before your cataract surgery.
Make sure your eye care provider knows if you take other medications regularly as certain medications may need to be taken differently. Do not eat or drink past midnight (unless otherwise instructed by your doctor), and try to get a good night’s rest. If you are stressed or worried about the procedure, talk to your eye care provider and primary care physician about options available to help you relax this night.
How to prepare: the day of cataract surgery
Do not eat or drink anything on the morning of your cataract surgery. Dress in comfortable clothing and do not wear makeup, cosmetics, perfume or cologne to the surgical center. Aim to arrive about 30 minutes early in case you have any last-minute paperwork to fill out or questions to discuss.
If it’s possible, see if your ride home will wait for you so you will not have to call him or her after the procedure.
At the surgery center, you will be given the basics of recovery and you can ask any questions you may have. Do not be afraid to ask anything. After all the preparations are complete, the actual procedure is surprisingly fast. In many cases, you will be out of the office and on your way home within two hours.
At Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center, a leader in ophthalmology in Arizona, we strive to make the process as simple, straightforward and pleasant as possible. We strive to help our patients achieve their visual goals. If you have other questions about how to prepare for cataract surgery, please feel free to give us a call today.