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Can Cataracts Return After Surgery?

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A surgeon preparing for cataract surgery on a patient

If you’ve recently noticed light sensitivity, cloudy spots in your vision, or a problem with your ability to see colours clearly, you may be dealing with a cataract. Don’t worry; they’re extremely common and easily treatable with a simple surgery. But many people with cataracts wonder: can cataracts return after surgery, or is cataract surgery a permanent fix?

During cataract surgery, your eye’s natural lens is replaced with an artificial intraocular lens. This artificial lens can’t develop cataracts. However, it can still cause certain vision problems. Contact your optometrist to discuss treatment if you notice any blurry vision, light sensitivity, or other vision problems after cataract surgery.

What Are Cataracts?

Think of your eye like a camera. The clear lens’s front part directs light to where it needs to go. This lens needs to be crystal clear; if it isn’t, the light gets blocked, creating blurry spots and shadows in the final picture.

Cataracts are an extremely common age-related condition that causes this natural lens to cloud. This process is usually gradual and begins without any symptoms. However, as the cataract grows larger and denser, it can affect vision and ultimately lead to blindness if left untreated. Over time, this blocks light from fully passing through the lens.

How to Tell if You Have Cataracts

So, how do you tell if you have a cataract? It can be difficult to see at first, and they rarely cause any physical sensation. They develop slowly, so they shouldn’t cause any pain.

The typical signs and symptoms of cataracts can vary, but all the symptoms are closely linked to your vision. Some common indicators of cataracts include:

  • Blurred, cloudy, or dim vision
  • Increasing difficulty with vision at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Needing brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Seeing “halos” around lights
  • Fading or yellowing of colours

If you’ve observed any of these symptoms, it’s time to visit your optometrist to discuss treatment.

A male optometrist examines a female patient's eyes for cataracts

Are Cataracts Fixable? The Truth About Surgery

If you’re diagnosed with a cataract, there is good news. Cataracts are an extremely common condition—so common that cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the world.

During cataract surgery, the goal is to remove the clouded natural lens in your eye and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens, or IOL. This is a safe and simple procedure with a long history of success.

There are a few steps to cataract surgery:

  • It begins with a pre-operation assessment. This lets your eye care professional determine the necessary power for your future IOL.
  • Localized anesthesia is used to numb the eye and make sure you are comfortable during the surgery.
  • A small and precise incision is made in the cornea so the surgeon can access the clouded lens.
  • The clouded part will be broken down, likely using ultrasound technology. These pieces are then suctioned out for removal.
  • The IOL is inserted through the incision.
  • The incision is sealed, likely without stitching, and should heal naturally.

After your procedure, you’ll receive post-operation instructions from your surgeon or optometrist. Make sure you follow their advice for a swift and smooth recovery.

Is Cataract Surgery a Permanent Fix?

There’s even more good news! Your cataracts won’t return after the surgery. Because your natural lens has been replaced with the artificial IOL, a new cataract can’t form. Once treated, you can’t develop a cataract in that eye.

However, it’s vital to understand that the new lens is not immune to issues that can affect your vision similarly to cataracts. A condition called posterior capsule opacification (PCO) can occur, causing vision to become hazy. This happens when the back of the lens capsule, which holds the IOL, becomes cloudy. Fortunately, this is also highly treatable.

What to Expect When Recovering from Cataract Surgery

Recovery from cataract surgery is generally quite straightforward, and most people can return to their normal activities within a few days. However, it’s essential to follow the advice of your surgeon or optometrist; this way, your recovery will likely be swift and smooth.

Typically, it’s recommended to:

  • Avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activity for a few weeks to prevent unnecessary pressure on your eye.
  • Refrain from driving until your doctor has confirmed it’s safe.
  • Protect your eye from irritation by avoiding dusty or dirty environments.
  • Keep water out of your eye for at least a week to prevent infection.
  • Use the prescribed eye drops to reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
  • Attend all follow-up appointments with your eye care provider to make sure everything is healing properly.

If you experience any severe pain or a significant change in your vision, you should contact your eye care professional immediately. And don’t forget to visit your optometrist so they can monitor your progress regularly.

When to Talk to an Optometrist

If you suspect you may have a cataract or have concerns about any vision changes following cataract surgery, contact our team at Henderson Vision Centre. We can check your eyes to determine if cataracts are causing your symptoms and give you our professional recommendation for treatment. Book an appointment with our team today, and let’s work together to keep your vision clear!

Written by Dr. Melina Chow

Dr. Chow received her Doctor of Optometry from the University of Waterloo in 2005. She has been an integral part of the Henderson Vision team for over 15 years, moving back to her hometown immediately upon graduating from university. When she isn’t at the clinic, Dr. Chow runs circles trying to keep up with her two energetic boys. Once she’s had enough cardio, she enjoys baking and planning her next vacation.
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