Weatherford Democrat

October 27, 2013

VETERANS’ CORNER: Take a good look before undergoing cataract surgery


Weatherford Democrat

— By JIM VINES

As Vietnam-era military veterans are reaching their 60s and 70s, they are facing the inevitable. Several have undergone surgery and many more will have to do so in the future.

A cataract is an eye disease in which the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, causing a decrease in vision. The lens is important for focusing light onto the back of the eye, the retina, so that images appear clear and without distortion and the clouding of this lens during cataract formation distorts the vision.

Cataracts are usually a very gradual process of normal aging but can occasionally develop rapidly. They commonly affect both eyes, but it is not uncommon for a cataract in one eye to advance more rapidly. Precisely why cataracts occur is unknown, however, most cataracts appear to be caused by changes in the protein structures within the lens that occur over many years and cause the lens to become cloudy.

The standard cataract surgical procedure is performed in a hospital or in an ambulatory surgery center on an outpatient basis. The most common form of cataract surgery today involves a process called phacoemulsification.

With the use of an operating microscope, the surgeon will make a very small incision in the surface of the eye in or near the cornea. A thin ultrasound probe, which is often confused with a laser by patients, is inserted into the eye and uses ultrasonic vibrations to dissolve emulsify the clouded lens. These tiny fragmented pieces are then suctioned out through the same ultrasound probe.

Once the cataract is removed, an artificial lens is placed into the thin capsular bag that the cataract previously occupied. This lens is essential in helping the eye focus after surgery. Most cataract surgery is done with only minimal sedation without having to put the patient to sleep. Numbing drops and an injection around the eye will be used to decrease sensation of the eye.

During the actual procedure, there will be several people in the operating room in addition to the ophthalmologist. These include anesthesiologists and operating room technicians. The actual removal of the clouded lens will take approximately 20 minutes. After completion of the surgery, sensations of pressure from the various instruments used during the procedure will be noticeable.

After leaving the operating room and brought to the recovery room, the doctor will prescribe several drops that will need to be taken for a few weeks. While there might be discomfort, most patients do not experience significant pain following surgery. If decreasing vision or pain continue, the ophthalmologist should be contacted immediately. While cataract surgery is one of the safest procedures available, with a high rate of success, rare complications can arise.

Please research a doctor thoroughly before making a commitment. Cost being a consideration, health should always take precedence. Remember, “You get what you pay for.”

Speak to you again next week.

Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.