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Your Guide to Cataract Surgery

Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is one of the most common eye surgeries performed in the United States every year. We certainly perform more than our fair share here at Woolfson Eye Institute.

In fact, we offer cataract surgery in Atlanta (Sandy Springs and College Park, GA), Cumming (GA), Lawrenceville (GA), Douglasville (GA), Canton (GA), Snellville (GA) and Asheville (NC).

Join us as we talk about cataracts — signs & symptoms, treatments, types of surgery & lens options, and the entire patient care process from initial consultation to post-operatve care.

Explanation of normal vision and overview of cataracts

What are cataracts?

According to Prevent Blindness America, there are 22 million Americans over the age of 40 who have cataracts, and that number is expected to grow to over 30 million in the next five years. The problem certainly isn’t going away any time soon.

If you ask most people what a cataract is, the answer would be something like “a cloudy or hazy film that forms over the eye.” However, in actuality a cataract is when the natural lens inside your eye becomes cloudy.

In essence, protein deposits come together to create a “smudge” on the lens of your eye, much like a smudge on the lens of the camera. Unfortunately, you can’t just take a rag and some cleaner to get the smudge out of the lens of your eye (that would be a very bad idea!)

Stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help you deal with cataracts at first, but when impaired vision begins to interfere with your usual activities, you might need cataract surgery.

Impact of Cataracts on Daily Life

Cataracts, a common condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, can profoundly affect one’s daily activities and overall quality of life. When the eye’s lens is no longer clear, it struggles to focus light accurately on the retina, leading to diminished vision and potentially causing various visual disturbances. Although most cataracts develop gradually and might not initially affect eyesight, they can, over time, significantly impair vision. This progression can make routine tasks such as reading, driving—particularly at night—and recognizing the facial expressions of friends and family increasingly challenging. Understanding the early signs and impacts of cataracts is essential for timely intervention and care.

Common cataract symptoms

Common Cataract Symptoms Treatment Options InfographicFor many patients, the first signs of a cataract are visual disturbances. These can include any or all of the following:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Loss of vibrancy, or changes in the way you see color
  • Problems driving at night due to glare from headlights or road signs
  • A phenomenon known as “second sight” where distance vision gets worse, but reading glasses are no longer required
  • Dramatic, sudden changes in your glasses or contact lens prescription

If you are experiencing any of these issues, and think that your vision is being affected by a cataract or other eye problem, please contact the Woolfson Eye Institute location nearest you to schedule your evaluation.

Cataract treatment options

For some patients with mild cataracts, a change in prescription can improve vision, but this is just a temporary solution to a problem that will not go away on its own.

There’s only one way to fix cataracts — remove the entire cloudy lens from the eye.

Every time we remove the cloudy lens, we replace it with an implant. The implant can have any number of features or technology associated with it, and we can assign any prescription to that lens implant that we want. But you have to go from a natural lens to a synthetic lens.

The primary treatment for patients who are affected by cataracts is surgery. Cataracts can be removed in a traditional manner using typical surgical tools or we use a laser to facilitate removal of the cataract (known as laser cataract surgery). During the procedure, the old, cloudy lens is removed and a new, artificial lens is put in its place.

Cataract Videos

The cataract surgery prOcedure

Whether you are dealing with a cataract in one eye or find yourself navigating the challenges of having cataracts in both eyes, it’s standard practice to perform surgery on only one eye at a time. This careful approach ensures that a patient isn’t overwhelmed by attempting to recover from surgery on both eyes simultaneously. Recovery and adjustment are key, hence why managing them one eye at a time makes for a smoother, more manageable experience.

Cataract surgery, regardless of whether it’s carried out manually or utilizing cutting-edge laser technology, is considered to be a relatively straightforward and simple procedure. However, its impact on your vision can be nothing short of profound. Restoring clarity and enhancing the quality of vision can dramatically improve not just how you see the world, but also how you live within it, significantly boosting your overall quality of life.

Explanation of the cataract surgery procedure

Before cataract surgery

You’ll want to start by allotting roughly 2-3 hours of your time for the surgery. The actual surgery takes only minutes, but additional time is required for preparation and recovery after the surgery.

Also, you want to make sure that you arrange transportation to and from your cataract surgery appointment, as you do not need to be driving immediately after surgery.

Preparation for cataract surgery involves a mild sedative, anesthetic or numbing drops that can make some patients feel a bit groggy. Once a patient is in the operating room, the skin around the eye will be cleaned with a disinfectant wipe, and special eye drops that dilate the pupil and prevent infection will be applied.

During cataract surgery

The first part of the procedure involves removing the old lens through a process called phacoemulsification.

In laymen’s terms, a device roughly the size of a pen tip is inserted through the cornea. Using high frequency sound waves, the cataract is broken up into small fragments that are immediately suctioned away.

This process clears the way for a new lens to be inserted, which will restore your vision and get rid of the cloudy vision you have been experiencing.

After the natural lens is removed, an intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted through the incision in the cornea using an injector tool. The lens is inserted right where the natural cataract lens used to be.

Slight adjustments are typically made to align the lens with the patient’s astigmatism (based on measurements taken before surgery), and at that point the lens is in place and ready to go.

Patients may experience a feeling of pressure on the eye, but most patients do not describe the experience as painful or unpleasant in any way.

Recovery from cataract surgery

Cataract Surgery PatientOur goal is to match each patient with the procedure that is best for them and to minimize the risk of any complications. The side effects of cataract surgery are minimal, but may include the worsening of dry eye for a few weeks or even months following your cataract surgery procedure.

The dry eye is usually temporary, and goes away after a period of time. At Woolfson Eye Institute, we send all of our patients home with drops to help alleviate any discomfort associated with dry eye.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can always call our practice or schedule an appointment with your post-op care doctor.

As always, it is important to still see your eye care professional periodically for a routine exam and checkup. Just because you now have clear vision doesn’t mean you can stop going to the eye doctor!

Laser Cataract Surgery

Who is a candidate for laser cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is performed to remove the cloudy natural lens from the eye, and is typically performed on patients between the ages of 60-75; however this is not always the case.

In most cases a permanent refractive intraocular lens (IOL) implant is inserted to replace the natural lens thereby restoring focusing power. Your surgeon will work with you to decide when to have cataract surgery, based on how well you are able to see during routine activities.

Many patients are able to drive, watch TV and work for a number of years after being first diagnosed with cataracts. However, if you have cataracts, you will eventually start to notice declining visual clarity – often with ghost images – which are not correctable with glasses or contacts.

Is laser cataract surgery right for you?

Female EyeYou and your Woolfson surgeon will initially have a consultation to design your customized laser cataract surgery driven by your current health, medical history, and unique needs.

During this process, a detailed examination will be performed. Ask your surgeon if you should continue your usual medications and nutritional supplements during the period between the exam and surgery.

As just one example, common drugs that treat men with enlarged prostates known as Alpha Blockers may cause problems associated with Intraoperative Floppy Iris Syndrome (IFIS) during cataract surgery.

  • Woolfson Eye Institute eye cataracts surgeons may present to you a choice of implantation with a regular single-vision (monofocal intraocular lens IOL) or a presbyopia-correcting intraocular lens (also known as a multifocal lens).
  • If you are interested in correcting presbyopia, which all people begin to face around age 40, you potentially could restore your ability to see at all distances with a multifocal IOL.
  • Additionally, premium IOLs are a great option that may reduce or eliminate your dependency on eyeglasses altogether. Before surgery, your eyes will be thoroughly measured to determine the proper power of the intraocular lens in addition to the types of lenses that are recommended.

The laser cataract surgery process

Laser cataract surgery is a relatively new procedure in the United States that allows cataract surgery to be performed with a machine-guided bladeless laser, as opposed to standard or conventional cataract surgery that is performed manually by a cataract surgeon.

During the process, the laser will create corneal incisions as well as the capsulorhexis, and can also be used to break up the cataract before the natural lens is removed from the eye.

  • Laser assisted cataract surgery has been shown to be superior to a manual instrument by significantly reducing the likelihood of human error when creating the capsulorhexis, as well as creating astigmatism treating incisions (LRIs) that are more accurate.
  • With the ability to perform bladeless laser refractive cataract surgery, we are now able to provide a more precise, laser guided surgery for patients in need of cataract treatment.
  • The result is a more predictable outcome for our patients. Laser cataract surgery is approved by the FDA, receiving its most recent approval in 2012.

Having laser cataract surgery at Woolfson Eye Institute is one of the best decisions you will make and will allow your procedure to be performed in our state-of-the-art Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC) that was designed, developed, and built with your complete comfort and satisfaction in mind.

LenSx® Laser for laser cataract surgery
Learn more about the LenSx® laser

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A word about insurance regulations for laser eye surgery

Currently, only patients that opt for premium lens implants such as multifocal IOLs, or those that are undergoing astigmatism correction in conjunction with their surgery, will qualify for FLACS.

Our doctors will discuss which treatment is best for you, and discuss all insurance regulations so that you can make an informed decision on the specific procedure that is right for you.

Mutlifocal IOLs: Another Option for Cataract Surgery

What are multifocal IOLs?

Multifocal IOLs are premium lenses that can fix a variety of vision issues above and beyond traditional IOLs.

Long gone are the days of patients having only one option for an intraocular lens implant for their cataract surgery.

Now, there are a wide variety of IOL options on the market, and many patients are choosing multifocal IOLs over traditional “standard” or monofocal IOLs.

Explanation of IOL Options

Which IOL is Right for You?

Traditional cataract surgery has been performed with the primary goal of restoring a patient’s vision far away, so that they can drive without blurred vision, see clearly from far away, and enjoy other activities where clear vision at a distance is required.

However, with a standard IOL lens a patient would still need to wear reading glasses or bifocal lenses after surgery to correct a problem that every patient will face: presbyopia (farsightedness).

  • In effect, multifocal IOLs can correct presbyopia, and are similar to bifocal or multifocal contact lenses, with the exception that they are permanently implanted inside the eye, and do not require any care or routine maintenance beyond normal appointments with your eye care professional.
  • You can think of a multifocal IOL as a lens that is implanted inside the eye to help you see clearly at any distance, and often without the need of glasses.

Which IOL is Right For You?

Benefits of multifocal IOL lens vs. a standard IOL?

“Standard” or monofocal IOLs are great for providing clear vision at a distance. However, patients will still need reading glasses to see clearly up close.

However, with multifocal IOLs that can treat presbyopia and astigmatism, patients are usually able to see well up close, at intermediate distances, and far away.

If there is a lens technology available that allows you to see clearly at any distance, and potentially get rid of your glasses or contact lenses, why wouldn’t you be interested in seeing if this particular treatment is right for you?

More Details About Multifocal IOLs

Common Eye Problems Fixed with IOLs

Are multifocal lens IOLs covered by insurance? How do I pay?

Medicare or private insurance will generally cover the cost of cataract surgery (although it’s important that you check with your provider); however most of the time you’ll have to pay the extra costs associated with multifocal or advanced technology IOLs out of pocket.

Still, there are payment options that can help take the sting out of the extra costs. At Woolfson Eye Institute we offer payment plans and financing options such as CareCredit, and can provide a variety of options to help you pay for your multifocal IOLs.

While we understand that cost is certainly a factor when determining whether or not a multifocal IOL is right for you, it’s also crucial to look at the potential benefits of these lenses as well, as your quality of life can be greatly improved, and you can save money in the long run.

What can I expect after having cataract surgery with a multifocal IOL?

Multifocal IOLs are designed to deliver excellent vision over a range of distances and could reduce your need for glasses.

Please keep the following in mind:

  • Do not evaluate your vision until you have had surgery in both eyes. It is very difficult for your brain to accept the difference in the vision between your two eyes until they can work together and adjust to your new vision.
  • You are likely to see some glare and halos around lights after surgery. This usually improves within a few months.
  • Typically, best reading will be achieved in high light conditions. You will likely need reading glasses in dim light.
  • Your range of vision should be good and with time will adjust. Have patience.
  • You may still need glasses after surgery, but you should need them less for most daily activities.

Our Cataract Surgeons


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Interested in multifocal IOLs, or cataract surgery? Contact us!

If you are interested in laser cataract surgery or multifocal IOLs in Atlanta (Sandy Springs and College Park, GA), Cumming (GA), Lawrenceville (GA), Douglasville (GA), Canton (GA), Snellville (GA) and Asheville (NC), then please contact us today!

Our experienced eye surgeons are here to ensure that you get the treatment that is best for you.

During your initial evaluation, we’ll go over laser cataract surgery, as well as any other appropriate treatment options you may need to consider based on the health of your eyes and medical history.

Don’t wait. If you are ready to see clearly and eliminate your cataracts once and for all, then call the office nearest you today!