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If you are considering cataract surgery, it is important to know about factors that can influence the success of the operation. Nearly 90 percent of people experience significant vision improvement following cataract surgery, but most people will still need some form of eyeglasses.
Depending on your vision, you may need to wear glasses for up-close activities, such as reading, after cataract surgery. This means you’ll likely need to wear glasses regularly but not all the time.
Cataract surgery is a very common and safe procedure that is used around the world. If you are experiencing vision deficiencies due to a cloudy lens, cataract surgery may be right for you.
There are currently two main types of cataract surgery available that are highly successful at helping people achieve improved vision. As with any surgery, however, there are some risks and a certain recovery period to be expected following cataract surgery.
The type of lens you select for surgery will impact the type of eyeglasses you will likely need later. If you choose a certain type of lens, you may not need to wear glasses after cataract surgery. Speaking with your ophthalmologist about the ideal lens and glasses combination for you will help to increase your satisfaction with the results of the surgery.
Indications for Cataract Surgery
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), most cataracts are a side effect of aging, and they are very common in older people. It is estimated that over 50 percent of all Americans have a cataract or have undergone cataract surgery by the age of 80.
The first step in treating cataracts is to try corrective techniques, such as new eyeglasses, contacts, reading in brighter lighting, wearing anti-glare sunglasses, or using magnifying lenses. If these methods do not provide enough improvement, surgery is your only option for achieving clearer vision.
Cataracts should be surgically removed if:
- You don’t find relief through other corrective measures.
- Vision loss caused by your cataracts is interfering with your ability to complete everyday activities, such as driving and reading.
- The cataract is preventing treatment of another vision problem, even if the cataract itself is not interfering with activities of daily life yet.
NEI explains that cataract surgery is one of the most common operations performed in the United States. It is also one of the safest and most effective surgeries performed. Following cataract surgery, approximately 90 percent of people experience improved vision.
Types of Cataract Surgery
Currently, there are two main types of cataract surgeries available. The first technique, phacoemulsification (phaco) cataract surgery, is used throughout the United States and in most developed countries. It is the most common type of cataract surgery and only requires small incisions in the eye.
Phaco cataract surgery is performed by hand and involves opening up the eye to gain access to the cataract. Ultrasonic energy is then used to break up the cataract, which is then removed in pieces through gentle suction. Once the cataract is removed, a foldable intraocular lens (IOL) is implanted into the eye directly behind the pupil.
The second type of cataract surgery available is laser-assisted cataract surgery, also referred to as LACS or laser cataract surgery. With this method, a computer-controlled laser is used to perform the operation rather than instruments handheld by a surgeon. The laser is programmed to make the initial incisions into the eye, access the cataract, and fragment the original cloudy lens.
LACS provides a high-speed and high-precision approach to traditional cataract surgery.
What to Expect Post Surgery
In general, most people experience significant improvement in their vision following cataract surgery. Certain conditions, such as other eye diseases like glaucoma, that have already caused too much damage can prevent people from experiencing expected outcomes.
No matter what underlying conditions you may have, it is important to be patient with the results after surgery.
Following cataract surgery, you can expect:
- It to take a few days for your vision to fully improve, as your eyes need to heal and adjust.
- Colors to appear brighter.
- Itching and mild discomfort around the eyes for a couple days.
- Your doctor to recommend wearing an eye patch or protective shield for a couple days while your eyes recover.
- To take eye drops or medications to prevent infections and reduce inflammation in the eyes.
- Most discomfort to disappear after a couple days.
- Complete healing to occur within eight weeks.
Most people make a full and relatively painless recovery from cataract surgery. There are risks associated with the surgery, however, so it is important to contact your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:
- Extreme inflammation
- Drooping eyelids
- Dislocation of the artificial lens
- Retinal detachment
- Secondary cataract
- Loss of vision
- Pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications
- Light flashes or spots in front of eyes
Factors That Affect Surgery Outcomes
There are certain things you can do to protect your vision before and after cataract surgery, explains NEI. Wearing eye protection, such as a hat and sunglasses, goes a long way to block harmful ultraviolet sunlight from damaging your lenses.
Smoking has also been linked to increased risks of vision problems, so it is important to quit smoking if you can. Researchers have also found that consuming a healthy plant-based diet can be very beneficial in reducing your risk of experiencing age-related cataracts, which can occur again after surgery.
As with all surgeries and medical interventions, each individual is likely to respond slightly differently. Your personal health and response to the operation are some of the greatest factors that will affect the outcomes of your surgery.
Be cautious about what activities you do directly after surgery and give your body enough time to recover. Do not engage in any activities that will put added pressure on your eyes. You will likely to able to return to light daily activities relatively quickly, but it is important to be patient with the recovery process.
Needing Glasses After Cataract Surgery
Typically, between one and three months after surgery, your eyes will be completely healed and ready to be outfitted with a final prescription for eyeglasses.
The Columbia Eye Clinic explains that some people will need glasses following cataract surgery, while others will not. Factors that influence your level of need for glasses following surgery include:
- The overall health of your eye.
- The mount of any astigmatism you might have.
- Your current eyeglass prescription.
- Your visual needs.
The type of artificial lens implanted into your eye can impact your need to continue wearing glasses. Monofocal IOLs, which are most commonly used in cataract surgery, are used to set your best uncorrected vision at a single focal point. This means people who get a monofocal IOL for distance vision will still need reading glasses for close activities, and vice versa.
Astigmatism-correcting IOLs can be implanted during cataract surgery to decrease dependence on glasses. They are also monofocal IOLs, however, so glasses may still be needed for some activities.
No matter what type of IOL is implanted during surgery, your overall dependence on glasses should be greatly reduced. Your ophthalmologist can help you determine which IOL is most appropriate for your lifestyle.
Once your eyes have healed following cataract surgery, laser eye surgery may be an option to correct your vision. This can mean you don’t have to wear glasses after cataract surgery.
Eyeglasses Recommended by Cataract Surgeons
Before you have cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist will discuss your options for glasses following surgery. There is no best option for post-surgery glasses, as everyone’s needs and requirements are different. Cataract surgeons recommend being patient and waiting for your eyes to fully heal before being fitted for a new pair of glasses.
Virtually any brand of eyeglasses will work provided the prescription is correct. Most eye doctors recommend that you wait at least one month following cataract surgery before getting a new prescription. This is to ensure your vision has stabilized.
Because most IOLs used in cataract surgery can only provide clear distance or clear near vision, you will need glasses to correct for whatever the lens doesn’t provide. Usually, just one lens in your glasses needs to be updated for the eye that was operated on.
As long as your frames fit the updated lens, you may not need to make a big change to your eyeglasses. The important thing that ophthalmologists stress is to select the IOL and subsequent glasses based on your personal lifestyle and vision priorities.
Cataract and Surgery for Cataract. (July 2006). BMJ.
Cataract Surgery. (March 2018). Mayo Clinic.
Choice of Lens and Glasses After Your Cataract Surgery. (March 2010). Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals.
Facts About Cataracts. (September 2015). National Eye Institute.
Why Do Some People Need Glasses After Cataract Surgery? (July 2016). Columbia Eye Clinic.