According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology about 22 million people in the United States over the age of 40 have cataracts. About half of all people over the age of 80 have this condition that clouds the lens of the eye and progressively leads to a decrease in vision. With the only cure found in cataract surgery, learning more about cataracts and their treatment can help you to answer questions for family members.
First, it is important to realize that despite the claims of some supplement manufacturers, there is no scientific evidence that any supplements can reduce the risk of developing cataracts. There is also no treatment except for cataract surgery at this time, but the type of surgery has changed dramatically providing patients with options for very fast healing with reduced risk of complications.
Now, most cataract surgery is classified as “no-stitch surgery” because the entire process is done using an extremely fine tube that is inserted into the eye. This tube contains an ultrasound instrument that creates a safe vibration in the eye that breaks up the cataract into small pieces.
The pieces of the cataract are gently suctioned out of the eye and an artificial lens put in place. When the tube is removed the eye tissue simply seals over, without the need for any type of stitches. This entire process is actually known as phacoemulsification and has an extremely high success rate with very few complications.
Local Anesthesia Only
The entire process of no-stitch cataract surgery is done under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. This anesthesia of the eye is usually done with drops, meaning no injections for those that are a bit nervous about the idea of a needle.
Patients typically do not require patching of the eye and there is minimal healing time required. Some patients, but not all, may experience mild discomfort in the eye for a day or two after the procedure. Most people do not need to drastically change their typical lifestyle during the healing process which can last up to eight weeks.
The benefits of no-stitch cataract surgery make this a good option for a wide range of different patients. You and your doctor can discuss the options, any possible risks, and any concerns that you may have before you decide if this is the right choice for your eye health.