A cataract is a clouding of the clear natural lens of the eye. The lens is the part of the eye that acts as a window behind the iris and the pupil. Unfortunately, occurs naturally as we age and tends to impact people over the age of 40. Although age is the most common reason for cataracts, occasionally children are born with congenital cataracts and young adults can develop debilitating visual impairment from a cataract.
There are actually two causes of cataract formation: clumping of protein or a discoloration. The most common reason is a build-up of protein. The lens is primarily composed of water and protein so in this case, the protein starts to clump and increases in size. It can be small cataracts or full blown cataracts where the protein clumps actually cover the entire lens. In either case, surgery may be required. The discoloration, happens overtime by turning the lens to a yellow and/or brownish color. This brown tint to the lens becomes more prominent and makes it difficult to read and identify colors like blues, purples and black.
Many patients with cataracts don’t notice that their vision has changed because it grows very slow over time. Generally, visual problems occur mostly as blurred vision in one or both eyes. Under certain conditions, your vision may be worse than others from your cataract. You may notice a "starburst effect", halo around headlights at nighttime, glare from lights or the sun making it harder for you to see. Color vision, as well, can be severely affected by your developing cataract. Colors are dull and not as bright as they once were.
You are ready for cataract treatment when it is interfering with your lifestyle. This point is different for different individuals. An elderly nursing home patient, may not be as bothered by the same degree of a cataract as an active, younger person. Most ophthalmologists no longer use the term "ripe" when determining when cataract surgery is appropriate. Instead, the surgery is generally indicated when your vision is interfering with your lifestyle and, therefore, the enjoyment of your life.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure but you will not be allowed to drive yourself home after. You will likely be able to drive to your post-operative appointment the next day. The surgery itself takes about 20 to 30 minutes but you will be in the doctor’s outpatient surgery center for several hours.
The traditional form of cataract surgery involves Dr. Zimm cutting a small incision in the cornea using handheld blades in order to access the cloudy lens or cataract. Using a process known as phacoemulsification, Dr. Zimm will insert a small probe in your eye. There are ultrasound waves released to break up the cataract and a vacuum is used to suction the pieces out. After this is removed, Dr. Zimm will insert an IOL to replace the lens. The incision is so small, you will not need any stitches on your eye and the incision should heal naturally.
This is the most basic type of cataract surgery available. Dr. Zimm has performed this procedure thousands of times. Most patients who choose to have traditional cataract surgery in Naples, FL may need to use reading and/or distance glasses due to presbyopia, or the natural aging of the eye which causes vision to deteriorate slowly.
The basic plan of traditional cataract surgery is kept in place where there will be an incision in your eye, the cataract will be removed and a new IOL will be in place of the cloudy lens. However, the use of a laser to perform surgery makes the surgery more precise. The difference in laser is that Dr. Zimm will use a femtosecond laser to break up the cataracts and then use specialized technology to create a surgical plan to correct your vision.
Your cataract surgery is performed at an outpatient ambulatory surgical center so no hospital is needed. You will typically be at the center normally for 1 1/2 hours. After you are brought into the surgical center, mild sedation is administered. Generally, Dr. Zimm employs the no-stitch cataract technique using only drops for topical anesthesia. You leave the surgery center wearing only dark glasses. No patches are needed. Most of the time, you require little or no pain medication.
You are seen the day after cataract surgery. The recovery period for cataract surgery is relatively short for most people. Many people feel ready to return to work or even drive a car within a couple of days after surgery. However, occasionally swelling can occur which will limit your vision in the immediate postoperative period. Topical eye drops are used for a few weeks after the surgery and, generally, patients are seen several times after surgery. Complication rates average less than 2%. Dr. Zimm and his staff will be happy to discuss all of these factors in greater depth during your evaluation.
After cataract surgery, sometimes another procedure is needed to clear the haze from your new lens and that is called a YAG Laser Capsulotomy.
Dr. Jeffrey Zimm is one of the top cataract surgeons in the area, having removed over 10,000 cataracts in Southwest Florida. To request an appointment with Dr. Zimm or to get more information about the benefits of cataract surgery, please contact us today by calling one of our Fort Myers or Naples, FL offices.