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In the United States, cataract surgery is one of the most common medical procedures. Additionally, it is one of the first procedures that is still performed today.
Ancient Egyptians utilized a surgical procedure known as "couching," in which a sharp needle was used to slide the cloudy lens out of the visual field and into the vitreous cavity at the rear of the eye.
Later, the Romans used a technique known as "needling" to cut the cataract into fragments that could be reabsorbed. While both procedures improved vision, they were unable to provide perfect clarity because the lens was not replaced.
In the 1940s, English ophthalmologist Harold Ridley devised the intraocular lens, a major breakthrough. Modern cataract surgery, unlike ancient procedures, employs small incisions and suction to extract the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial plastic lens.
There are two methods for lens extraction: phacoemulsification and extracapsular surgery. After your obscured lens is removed, it will be replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL), a clear artificial lens implanted within the eye. Your eye specialist will select a lens with the appropriate focusing power based on preoperative measurements of the eye and a discussion of your lifestyle requirements.
What to expect on the day of cataract surgery
Typically, cataract surgery is conducted as an outpatient procedure. Two to three hours will likely be spent at the surgical facility. The procedure itself typically takes less than thirty minutes. You will be conscious, but an intravenous sedative may be administered to relax you, and you will receive local anesthesia to block sensation.
In accordance with the doctor's orders, the operating room personnel will apply various eyedrops prior to and after surgery. The surgeon may then place a bandage or shield over the eye, which you can remove later that day or the following day. You will rest for approximately thirty minutes in the recovery area before receiving instructions on how to care for your eye.
Recuperation at home following cataract surgery
Once you are set to return home, you will require transportation. You will have multiple postoperative appointments with your ophthalmologist, typically one day, one week, one month, two months, and six months after surgery. This will vary on the patient and the doctor.
At each appointment, your eye will be examined, your visual acuity evaluated, and your eye pressure measured. Following surgery, you will administer antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eyedrops on a daily basis to prevent infection and reduce inflammation.
Following surgery, you will sleep with an eye shield for approximately one week. Wear sunglasses outside per your doctor's recommendation.