During the early stages of a cataract, a stronger eyeglass prescription, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or using a magnifying glass can improve vision. However, if these measures do not work, surgery is the only effective cataract treatment. Cataract surgery involves swapping out the clouded lens for an artificial one.
There are two types of cataract surgery: phacoemulsification and extracapsular surgery. Phacoemulsification, or phaco, involved a tiny incision on the side of cornea and a tiny ultrasound probe that softens and breaks up the lens so that it can be removed by suction. During extracapsular surgery, a doctor makes a longer incision on the side of the cornea and removes the lens’s cloudy core in one piece. The rest of the lens is then sucked out of the eye.
After both types of surgery, a person’s natural lens is replaced with an artificial one called an intraocular lens, or IOL. The IOL becomes a permanent part of the eye, and can never become cloudy.
As with all surgical procedures, cataract surgery poses risks. Infection and bleeding are possible, as well as retinal detachment. Talk to your doctor about the risks of cataract surgery before deciding on a course of action.
Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed operations in the United States. It is, for the most part, very safe and very effective. In approximately 90 percent of cataract cases, those who undergo surgery have better vision afterward.
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