Cataract surgery is one of the most common and successful surgeries performed today. Most people who undergo surgical treatment for cataracts experience improved vision without long-term complications.
According to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), three million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year, with an overall success rate of 98 percent or higher.
Though cataract surgery is highly successful, complications can arise. Keep reading to learn more about cataract complications and how to avoid, recognize, and seek treatment for them.
The obvious answer is not having surgery. But, one of the best assurances against complications is working with a skilled and experienced surgeon.
Some eyes are more susceptible to risk due to a history of trauma, prior retinal surgery, or other anatomical variations that could lead to problems during surgery.
At Eye Center of the Rockies, we’re fortunate that Dr. Ehrlich has performed over 16,000 surgeries and performed studies for the FDA on intraocular lenses.
As with any medical procedure, cataract surgery poses risks.
The most common complication of cataract surgery is swelling of the cornea or the outer window of the eye.
Specifically, the swelling increases during the first 24 hours. Your vision may be blurrier the day after surgery more than it appeared post-operatively in the recovery room.
But if the swelling is significant, an increase in the steroid eye drop medication may be recommended, or an additional medication may be used.
The most serious and dreaded risk, but fortunately rare (less than 1 per 1000 surgeries), is an infection inside the eye called endophthalmitis.
To avoid this complication, antibiotic drops are started before surgery and continued afterward. For additional protection, at the end of the surgery, an antibiotic solution is infused inside the front chamber of the eye through the incision used to remove your cataract.
To minimize the risk of infection, it’s crucial that hands are washed before touching the eyes or while using the prescribed medications. A serious infection can result in loss of vision.
It is also important not to touch the tip of the eyedrop bottles to the eyelashes or the eye. Keep the bottle a short distance from the eye when releasing the drop to avoid contact.
This is why hospitals discard eyedrop bottles after they use them during your preoperative and postoperative care. If you’re having cataract surgery on the second eye, we recommend getting a new bottle from the pharmacy.
Ocular hypertension, an increase of pressure in the eye, is one of the most common risks of cataract surgery.
This is usually temporary and most commonly observed in the first 72 hours after surgery. The treatment depends on the cause, but ophthalmologists normally prescribe eye drops or pills to treat ocular hypertension.
Patients take a pressure lowering eyedrop the night after their surgery to help minimize the pressure rise. If the pressure is still elevated on the first postoperative visit, the drops will be continued for the next several days or first week.
Cataract surgery can slightly increase your risk of retinal detachment. Other eye disorders, such as high myopia, can further increase your risk of retinal detachment after cataract surgery.
One sign of a retinal detachment is a sudden increase in light flashes or floaters. Floaters are tiny specks that seem to float around in your field of vision.
A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If you notice a sudden increase in floaters or light flashes, contact your eye care professional immediately.
Retinal detachment is typically painless and early treatment often prevents permanent loss of vision. The sooner you get treatment, the more likely you will regain healthy vision.
However, even if you’re treated promptly, some vision loss is still possible.
With any surgery or procedure, it’s important you know all of the possible treatment options and the associated risks.
When cataract surgery complications occur, they can usually be treated medically or with additional surgery. Talk to your eye care professional about potential risks to make sure cataract surgery is right for you.
Though rare, problems can occur months to years after cataract surgery.
However, with immediate medical attention, these issues can usually be treated quite successfully.
Sometimes, the eye tissue that encloses the intraocular lens (IOL) becomes cloudy and may cause blurred vision. This condition is called an after-cataract. An after-cataract can develop months or even years following cataract surgery. It can be successfully treated with a YAG laser capsulotomy.
This procedure creates a small hole in the lens capsule’s center, allowing light to come through. It’s a quick and painless out-patient procedure that successfully treats after-cataracts.
Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help to delay cataracts. Smoking also greatly increases the risk of developing cataracts. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help minimize the risk of eye disease and disorders.
If you are 60 years of age or older, it’s recommended that you have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
In addition to cataracts, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. Early treatment for many eye diseases could save your sight.
Surgical treatment for cataracts has improved significantly over time, and you should consider cataract surgery if your eye doctor recommends it.
Contact our team at Eye Center of the Rockies to learn more about how you can get some much-needed help for your reduced vision conditions due to cataracts or other common eye diseases.
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