Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over 40 years old. According to Prevent Blindness America, more people have cataracts than diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration combined. Fortunately, laser assisted cataract surgery is a great way to address this issue.
What Causes Cataracts?
The lens in the eye works much like a camera lens and focuses light onto the retina. It also adjusts the focus of the eye, so people can clearly see things that are both close and far away. The lens is made mainly of protein and water, and the protein is precisely arranged in a way to keep the lens clear.
As people age, some of the protein starts to clump together and makes the lens cloudy. The result is a cataract. If untreated, the cataract can get bigger and impair the patient’s vision. Over time, the patient’s vision will become blurred, and colors will seem duller.
There are several types of cataracts that are categorized by the part of the lens in which they originate. The most common type is the nuclear sclerotic cataract that starts to develop in the center of the lens and is associated with aging.
What Happens During Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is a common procedure in which the doctor removes the defective lens and replaces it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. It is performed as an outpatient procedure.
In conventional cataract surgery, the doctor uses a blade to make a couple of incisions in the cornea. A viscous fluid is injected into the eye, so it maintains its shape during the surgery. The surgeon then cuts open the lens capsule and performs a procedure called phacoemulsification to remove the defective lens. During phacoemulsification, the surgeon uses ultrasound to break the lens into small pieces and uses suction to vacuum up the pieces. The surgeon then implants the IOL.
What is Laser Assisted Cataract Surgery?
Laser assisted cataract surgery is similar to conventional cataract surgery except the doctor uses a laser instead of blades during the procedure. For example, during laser assisted surgery, the doctor will use a femtosecond laser, which is similar to the lasers used in some LASIK operations, to make the incisions in the cornea during the first step.
The surgeon may also use the laser to open up the lens capsule and cut the cataract into several pieces. If the patient also has astigmatism, the surgeon may also make certain cuts into the cornea to correct it.
What are the Advantages of Laser Assisted Cataract Surgery?
Laser assisted surgery offers greater control and precision and thus reduces the chance of mishaps. Using the laser during the phacoemulsification reduces the amount of ultrasound needed to break up the cataract. If too much ultrasound is used during this step, the resultant buildup of heat can cause a burn – and that can actually cause astigmatism. A burn also increases the chances of leaking and may need more stitches to close.
The laser is also less likely to damage the lens capsule. Not only does laser assisted surgery reduce the chance of complications, but it also allows the doctor to treat astigmatism at the same time.
Learn More During a Consultation
There are a number of advantages that come with laser assisted cataract surgery at Live Oak Ophthalmology in Wilmington. We encourage you to schedule an appointment at our office to learn more about this procedure and how it can help you. Contact us today to book your consultation.