Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is a simple and often enjoyable experience at the Ivey Eye Institute. Although the surgery usually only takes 15-20 minutes, you are in the hospital for 2 to 3 hours on the day of surgery. Your driver must stay with you the whole time. Do not have anything to eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery. Dr. Bursztyn will look at your eye the day after and the week after surgery to make sure it is healing well. Most people see better even a few days after the surgery.

Diagram of Eye Source: Wikipedia

What is a Cataract?

There is a lens inside the eye which focuses light onto the retina. When we are born, the lens is perfectly clear. Over time, the lens becomes cloudy. When the lens is cloudy enough to affect vision, we call it a cataract.

Normal Vision

Image Seen with Normal Vision

Cataract

Image Seen with Cataract

Will I Get a Cataract?

Everyone will eventually get a cataract if they live long enough. Some people get cataracts when they are young, and some people won’t get cataracts until they are 90 or 100. This depends on what time other people in your family got cataracts and also your own personal health. Things like diabetes, steroids, radiation treatment or eye trauma can cause early cataracts.

How Do I Know I Have A Cataract?

The only symptom of cataracts is blurred vision. This can include difficulty reading, glare, haloes around lights or dimming of vision. Cataracts do not cause pain or red eye.

Should I have Cataract Surgery?

There are 2 main reasons to have cataract surgery.

  1. The most important reason to have surgery is if your vision is bothering you. If you can’t see well enough to do things you like to do, then cataract surgery may help.
  2. The second reason is if you can’t pass your driving vision test and still want to drive.


If you are happy with your vision, and can still pass the driving vision test, you do not need cataract surgery.

How is cataract surgery done?

Your ophthalmologist will make a small opening in the cornea to reach the lens. The lens sits inside a very thin membrane, which is also opened. The lens is removed by ultrasound, leaving the membrane in place. A new plastic lens is then put inside the membrane. The opening in the cornea will seal itself, usually without any stitches.

What are the risks of cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is a very safe procedure, and is the most common surgery performed in North America. But with any surgery, there are risks. These include infection, bleeding, retinal detachment, retinal swelling, loss of the lens into the back of the eye and wrong lens power, which means you may still need glasses. Be sure to discuss these risks with your ophthalmologist before having your surgery.

Do I have to pay for cataract surgery?

In Ontario, cataract surgery is 100% covered by OHIP. You do not have to pay any money to have it done. However, there are some extra features that you can pay for if you want to.

Lenses

There are many different lens implants that can be used. The standard lens, paid for by the government, is excellent. More expensive lenses can fix astigmatism, block out blue and UV light, and even reduce the need for reading glasses. These lenses may not work for everyone, and many people are very happy with the standard lens.

Measurements

There are 2 ways to measure the power of lens needed for your eye. The standard way is with ultrasound, and this is covered by OHIP. The other way is with a laser, which is slightly more accurate, but is not covered by OHIP. This usually costs between $100-$200. Again, most people have great results with the ultrasound. If you would like to pay for a lens upgrade, you usually need to get the more accurate measurements too.

What can I expect after cataract surgery?

The eye is a little scratchy and sore the day of surgery, but most people are very comfortable by the next day. It is not normal to have a lot of pain, so if you do, you need to see your ophthalmologist right away. You will need to use drops for up to a month after surgery. You will also need to wear a shield to protect the eye while sleeping for one week after surgery. The vision usually improves very quickly after surgery, but it may take a few weeks to heal completely. Unless you buy a special lens, you will need reading glasses. Some people still need a small glasses prescription for distance, but you should wait a minimum of 1 month before getting your glasses checked.