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Keeping You in Sight

What are Cataracts?

Having Cataracts Leads to Many Questions - Be Informed!



Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a Cataract?


What is the Lens of the Eye?


What are the Symptoms of a Cataract?


How are Cataracts Treated?


How is the Cataract Removed?


What are Some of the Possible Complications of Cataract Surgery?


What Happens at a Cataract Evaluation Appointment?


What Happens During Cataract Surgery?


What Happens after Cataract Surgery?


What is an “After-Cataract?”



What is a Cataract?


Cataracts are a clouding and hardening of the natural lens of the eye and are a normal part of the aging process. In the early stages of developing a cataract, stronger lighting and eyeglasses or contact lens changes may lessen the vision problems caused by the cataract.


It may seem as if there is suddenly a deterioration in vision, but that is because the progression of the cataract has finally gotten to the point that the tools used to overcome the developing cataract symptoms (increased lighting, changing glasses or contact lens prescriptions) no longer help improve vision.  Once the cataracts begin to interfere with the activities of day to day living (work and pleasure), it is time to discuss ways to correct this problem with your ophthalmologist.


You Have Choices! Please see our Customized Cataract Surgery

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What is the Lens of the Eye?


The lens is the part of the eye that helps focus light on the retina. The retina is the eye’s light-sensitive layer that sends visual signals to the brain. In a normal eye, light passes through the lens and gets focused on the retina. To help produce a sharp image, the lens must remain clear.

The lens is made mostly of water and protein. The protein is arranged to let light pass through and focus on the retina. Sometimes some of the protein clumps together. This can start to cloud small areas of the lens, blocking some of the light from reaching the retina and interfering with vision. This is a cataract!

In the early stages, a cataract may not cause a problem. The cloudiness may affect only a small part of the lens. However, over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens making it harder to see. As more and more of the lens is affected, less light is able to reach the retina and your vision may become dull and blurry.

Cataracts do not spread from one eye to the other, although many people do develop cataracts in both eyes. Even though researchers continue to learn more about cataracts, no one knows for sure what causes them. Scientists think there may be several causes, including smoking, diabetes, and excessive exposure to light.

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What are the Symptoms of a Cataract?


The most common symptoms of a cataract are:



These symptoms can also be signs of other eye problems and conditions. If you have any of these symptoms, it is always best to have a comprehensive eye exam by an ophthalmologist (an eye doctor who is an M.D.). During this type of exam, your doctor will include:

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How are Cataracts Treated?


When the measures taken for overcoming the symptoms of a developing cataract no longer help improve vision, or when the decreased vision interferes with the patient's quality of life, then surgery is the only effective treatment.


Even if cataracts are present in both eyes, the surgeon will not remove them both at the same time.  Each eye will be done separately, as close as two weeks apart.  This is for the protection of the patient so that the first eye has time to heal before performing surgery on the second eye.  Cataract surgery is one of the most common operations performed in the United States today.  It is also one of the safest and most effective surgical procedures!  In about 90% of the cases, patients who have cataract surgery have better vision after the surgery than they did before!

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How is the Cataract Removed?


The highly skilled surgeons of Palmetto Eye & Laser Center primary use phacoemulsification to remove cataracts (the cloudy natural lens of the eye) and replace it with an intraocular lens implant that often results in better vision than patients have had in years!


The latest technology developed to optimize cataract surgery is the Femtosecond Laser which is an advanced, precision-based technology that operates with computer assisted control.  This laser allows the surgeon to remove a cataract without the need for manual incisions made using a scalpel blade, making these procedures BLADELESS surgery!  This is the most technologically advanced option for cataract surgery in the world!

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What are Some of the Possible Complications of Cataract Surgery?


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What Happens at a Cataract Evaluation Appointment?


At Palmetto Eye & Laser Center we ask you to arrive 20 minutes before your first appointment time.  This highly skilled and complex evaluation may take over 2 hours, so please plan ahead to allow us the time to provide the best possible assessment, care, and attention during this appointment!


You will need to bring the following to your appointment:



It is VERY important to:


Bring a family member or friend who can assist you with medical and financial decisions.


AND, if you wear Soft Contact Lenses: Discontinue wearing them 1 week prior to your scheduled cataract evaluation appointment and do NOT wear them to your visit!


Our skilled technicians will begin the appointment with an assessment of your general physical health, your health history including any previous surgery, your family's health history, your social history and a review of your medications.  The technician will then do some tests to measure the curve of the cornea of your eye and measure the size and shape of your eye.  This information is of critical importance for your doctor to be able to recommend and order the best lens implant to use during your surgery.  We will also show you a video about cataract surgery to give you as much information as possible so that you can be prepared to ask the doctor all your questions!


Following your comprehensive eye exam with the doctor and your decision that you are ready to proceed with your surgery, another technician will schedule the procedure with the ambulatory surgery center that works best for you and your surgeon.  That facility will contact you for the information that they need.  The technician will also go over with you all the preoperative and postoperative instructions that you will need to know.

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What Happens During Cataract Surgery?


At the ambulatory surgery center, drops will be put in your eyes to dilate the pupil.  The area around your surgical eye will be washed and cleansed.


The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes and is very effective.  Many patients choose to stay awake during the surgery while others prefer sedation.  After the surgery, special dark glasses will be placed over your eyes to assist in reducing the normal postoperative sensitivity to light. They also are a means to offer some protection for your eye, so it is important to wear them.  After surgery, patients are observed for a short time to make certain that there are no signs of complications. Patients are then allowed to return home!  A driver must accompany you, because you will not be allowed to drive the day of surgery.


And just because many patients ask us about this:  NO, the eye is  NOT removed during cataract surgery!

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What Happens after Cataract Surgery?


There is often some minor itching and mild discomfort in the eye for a while after cataract surgery.  Some fluid discharge is also common, and the eye may be sensitive to light and to touch.  After 1 to 2 days, even moderate discomfort should disappear.  In most cases, healing takes place within 6 weeks.


After surgery, the doctor will schedule exams to check on the healing process and visual results. There are usually eye drops used to help the healing process that will be used for many days.  The surgeon and staff will give you clear instructions on how to use these eye drops.  Dark sunglasses will be worn to protect the eye and reduce the sensitivity to light.

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What is an “After-Cataract?”


The natural lens of the eye is surrounded by a clear cellophane-like wrapping called a capsule.  During cataract surgery, the front of this capsule is removed, then the cataract is removed, and then the new intraocular lens implant is positioned in the eye.


The back part of the capsule remains intact within the eye.  This is called the posterior capsule.  Some patients may develop a clouding of this capsule after cataract surgery.  This can happen months or even years after the cataract surgery.


If this should happen, there is a simple laser procedure that is done in the office called a Yag Laser Posterior Capsulotomy  that will clear the cloudy vision immediately!

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