Cataract removal is one of the most common operations performed
in the U.S. today. It is also one of the safest and most effective.
In about 90 percent of cases, people who have cataract surgery
have better vision afterward.
How is a cataract removed?
There are two primary ways to remove a cataract. Your doctor
can explain the differences and help determine which is best
Phacoemulsification, or phaco. Your doctor makes a small incision
on the side of the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface that
covers the front of the eye. The doctor then inserts a tiny probe
into the eye. This device emits ultrasound waves that soften
and break up the cloudy center of the lens so it can be removed
by suction. Most cataract surgery today is done by phaco, which
is also called small incision cataract surgery.
Extracapsular surgery. Your doctor makes a slightly longer incision
on the side of the cornea and removes the hard center of the
lens. The remainder of the lens is then removed by suction.
In most cataract surgeries, the removed lens is replaced by an
intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL is a clear, artificial lens that
requires no care and becomes a permanent part of your eye. With
an IOL, you'll have improved vision because light will be able
to pass through it to the retina. Also, you won't feel or see
the new lens.
Some people cannot have an IOL. They may have problems during
surgery, or maybe they have another eye disease. For these people,
a soft contact lens may be suggested. For others, glasses that
provide powerful magnification may be better.