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When you are diagnosed with cataracts, you worry about your vision and how it impacts your future. There are treatments including laser cataract surgery and laser surgery, but which is the best for you and what are the differences?
We understand this can be confusing and difficult to understand, so we created this guide to help you understand cataracts and these two vision-saving surgeries. Your vision is important to you and you want to make an educated decision about your future.
Surgery can be scary, especially when you’re dealing with your vision, but this guide can set your fears at ease.
What Are Cataracts?
Throughout your life, the lens of your eye is crystal clear and provides you crisp clear vision. As you get older, the lens becomes cloudy and you may notice cloudy or blurry vision and you might notice colors look duller.
There could be haloing around lights and light sensitivity during the day. Cataracts can begin forming as early as 40, but you might not notice symptoms for years. If you’re young and your optometrist discovers cataracts, they might not recommend treatment and instead focus on vigilance as cataracts worsen through the years.
Once cataracts begin making daily life difficult, the doctor will recommend surgery to treat cataracts and help improve your vision. The average age for cataract surgery is in the 60s.
Cataracts are a natural part of aging for many people as the lens thickens and becomes less flexible. There are risk factors that make it more likely you’ll develop cataracts as you age including diabetes, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and other eye problems.
Types of Cataracts
While all cataracts involve the clouding of the lens, there are different types depending on the impacted location.
If the cataract impacts the center, then it’s a nuclear cataract. It may first appear as nearsightedness and you may notice reading vision improvement, but eventually, it causes yellowing and cloudy vision.
Cortical cataracts are on the edges of the lens. You may notice white streaks on the end of the lens and as it gets worse extends into the center. They interfere with light as it passes through the lens.
If it’s in the back of the lens, then it’s called posterior subscapular cataracts. It’s a small opaque area in the back of the lens that interferes with light passage. It causes problems reading and causes worsened vision in bright lights. They also tend to get worse faster than the other types.
If you’re born with cataracts or develop them at an early age, then they’re called congenital cataracts. These could be caused by genetics, early childhood eye infection or trauma.
Non-Laser Cataract Surgery
Doctors have two primary methods of treating cataracts outside of using a laser. Phacoemulsification is when the doctor makes a small incision in the eye and places a probe. The probe emits sound waves to break up and soften the lens and the cataracts are removed.
Extracapsular surgery needs a larger incision in the eye and the removal of the cloud cataract core and then the lens is suctioned out. An artificial lens is placed on the eye and becomes a standard part of the eye.
Extracapsular cataract surgery is performed less frequently than the phacoemulsification method. There are risks to these types of surgery including infection and bleeding. Patients must do their best to reduce infection by following the doctor’s recommendations, washing their hands before touching their eyes and taking necessary medication.
If a person is on blood thinners, the doctor may request the stop taking the medication before the surgery to reduce the risk of bleeding.
Laser Cataract Surgery: How Does It Work?
Cataract laser surgery starts with an ultrasound mapping of your eye. The map shows the exact areas of the cataract, which are then sent to a computer that uses the map to program the laser. This provides the most accurate measuring of the location, size and depth of the cataract for the incisions.
The laser makes an incision in the eye and can also help soften the cataract. An ultrasound probe breaks the lens into small pieces and then suction it off. Much like the non-laser methods, an artificial lens is placed into the eye.
This is the most common type of laser eye surgery and people should learn more about the procedure if their doctor has not mentioned this as an option.
Laser-assisted cataract surgery is a newer and more expensive method than cataract surgery. Insurance may not cover laser surgery unless you meet qualifications such as astigmatism, a dense lens or if you need an artificial lens.
Like traditional cataract surgery, there is a risk of bleeding and infection.
How Does Laser and Traditional Cataract Surgery Differ?
Both methods have similar recovery time and neither need stitches. The primary benefit of laser cataract surgery is the ability to provide a more precise location of the cataract and the complete mapping of the area.
Since the incisions are more precise, laser surgery may provide better correction, but the skill of the surgeon does play a large part.
Traditional cataract surgery is more likely covered by your insurance and Medicaid, making it a more common surgery. Since the benefits of both are similar, it takes specific needs for insurance to cover the costs of the laser surgery.
The Goal of Laser and Traditional Eye Surgery
Since surgery is only usually offered once cataracts have an impact on everyday life, the ultimate goal is an improvement in vision. Since both methods remove the cataract, vision is generally improved with either method.
Laser-assisted cataract surgery may also help improve astigmatism as it can be fixed at the same time as the main cataract surgery.
Choose the Surgery Right for You
Talk with your doctor about whether laser cataract surgery or traditional cataract surgery is right for you. Your vision is important, and the surgery should provide you with the best outcome possible.
If you want to learn more about cataracts and cataract surgery, then please explore our site.