Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. Because of this, cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries in the U.S., and 3 million Americans elect to have cataract surgery each year.
When it comes to cataract surgery, there are many choices. Several different artificial lenses called intraocular lenses (IOLs) are available, which perform various functions. There are also different methods of cataract surgery. Although both methods are effective and safe, they differ in technique. Let’s take a moment to highlight some of the qualities of traditional cataract surgery and laser-assisted surgery:
Traditional Cataract Surgery
Traditional cataract surgery, although complex, is both safe and extremely effective. A surgeon makes a tiny incision in the side of the cornea to remove your clouded lens. Using a process called phacoemulsification, your surgeon will insert a small probe in your eye. The device releases ultrasound waves that break up the lens so it can be suctioned out.
Using the same small incision, your surgeon will then insert the IOL into your eye. The incision is so tiny that it usually does not even require sutures, and the eye tissue seals itself. This procedure is done on an outpatient basis, takes about 20 minutes, and has a very quick recovery time. Most people are back to normal activities fairly rapidly.
Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery
Laser-assisted cataract surgery has been used to remove cataracts for the past decade. This procedure provides the same outcome as traditional cataract surgery but uses a different method. It utilizes a femtosecond laser to break up cataracts. Your surgeon will use special software to create a surgical plan with a 3-D image of the eye called OCT (optical coherence tomography). The plan includes the location, depth, and length of the cataract in all planes. Using the unique map of your eye and the settings created in the software, the femtosecond laser will actually create the incisions and assist in the cataract removal.
Light energy from the laser causes disruption of tissue borders with minimal damage to nearby tissue. The old lens is removed, and then, the new lens is inserted. Recovery time is very similar to traditional cataract surgery, and most patients experience clearer vision and can resume normal activities fairly rapidly.
Which method is best for you?
Talk to your eye doctor to learn more about these two procedures that will dramatically improve your vision. Both methods have proven success rates, so make a list of questions for your doctor and get them answered so you can make an informed choice.