Cataract : Treatment

There is no non-surgical treatment for a cataract. Preventive measures include wearing good ultraviolet (UV) blocking sunglasses as a protection from the sun. Anti-oxidant vitamins may retard cataract changes. There are no medications, dietary supplements, exercises or optical devices to cure cataracts. If symptoms from a cataract are mild, prescription glasses may be sufficient to function more comfortably.

Surgery is the only way a cataract can be removed and cured. This treatment involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a substitute lens.

There are two important ways to remove a cataract:

(1) Phacoemulsification, or phaco: In this technique the doctor makes a small incision on the side of the cornea, (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. Most cataract surgery today is done by this method and is done by using local anaesthesia. This is also called “out patient” or minor cataract surgery.

(2) Extracapsular surgery: A longer incision on the side of the cornea is made to remove the hard center of the lens. The remainder of the lens is then removed by suction and replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL is a clear, artificial lens that requires minimal care and becomes a less than permanent part of the eye and improves vision. The operation usually lasts 1 hour and is almost painless.

(3) However, in some people who have had extracapsular surgery or phacoemulsification, the lens capsule becomes cloudy after a year. It causes the same vision problems as a cataract does. To correct this, laser capsulotomy can be performed. In laser (YAG) capsulotomy a laser (light) beam is used to make a tiny hole in the capsule to let light pass. This surgery is painless and does not require stay in the hospital.

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