If you've recently been informed by your ophthalmologist that you've developed cataracts -- a condition that clouds and fuzzes the ordinarily clear lens that helps you process images -- you may be wondering about your surgical removal options. In the past, cataract surgery was a fairly invasive process that involved cutting the surface of your eye, peeling back the lens, removing the clouded portion, and replacing it with an artificial lens. However, there are several "blade-free" alternatives to traditional cataract surgery that may be a good option for you. Read on to learn more about these cataract removal options, as well as the qualities you'll need to make yourself a good candidate for this surgery.
What alternatives to traditional cataract surgery exist?
One of the most popular advances in cataract surgery is the ability for an ophthalmologist to perform the cataract removal without the use of a blade. By using a laser guided by a computer model of your eye (including the cataract), the doctor should be able to accurately and precisely break up the parts of your eye lens that is clouded. Your doctor will then suction out these pieces and insert an artificial lens in their place.
By avoiding making a manual incision into the outer layers of your eye, your doctor can reduce your healing time, as the smooth creases of the laser incision will seal themselves. This will dramatically increase the odds of a successful cataract surgery.
How do you know if you are a good candidate for laser cataract surgery?
Although this surgery is quite popular, not everyone with cataracts is a promising candidate. There are a few conditions that may make this type of surgery less successful, as well as some financial considerations you may want to ponder.
If your cataract is severe or covers the entire surface of your eye, manual removal by your doctor may be the safest option. Although a laser can break up a good portion of the cloudy lens, a skilled hand will be needed to remove each individual piece. Often, it's quicker and more cost-effective for the doctor to simply remove and replace your entire lens than to attempt to ferret out only the damaged portions.
If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, your doctor may require that you get your blood sugar under control for a certain period of time before the surgery can be performed. When your blood sugar is elevated for an extended period of time, it damages many cells in your body -- particularly the vulnerable ones in your eyes. Because untreated diabetes can quickly cause permanent harm to your vision, most surgeons will refuse to perform corrective surgery on an individual who will likely need additional treatment when the blood sugar levels begin to stabilize. If you're having trouble managing your blood sugar, you may wish to consult with your primary care physician so that you can get the medication or lifestyle advice you need to be able to undergo cataract surgery.
In most situations, traditional cataract surgery will be covered by your health or vision insurance, as long as the cataract is interfering with your ability to see and go about your daily life. However, laser surgery may be seen by insurance companies as an unnecessary "frill" or option, requiring you to pay for this surgery out of pocket. With surgical costs averaging about $3,500 per eye, this can quickly add up. However, if you're generally healthy, have only a mild or moderate cataract, and want to ensure a quick, convenient, and complication-free procedure, laser surgery may be the best choice for you. Go to websites about cataracts to learn more about this topic.