Everything you need to know for a smooth and successful experience

Doctor with model of eye pointing at eye lens

Cataracts are a fact of life. At some point, we’ll all get them. Just like wrinkles and gray hair, they’re part of our body’s aging process. They can be brought on by medications, injury, diabetes, or other medical or genetic disorders, but for most of us, they’re simply due to age.

Despite how significantly cataract-induced poor vision can affect your life, cataract surgery can get your vision back on track safely and effectively. Surgery always entails some degree of risk and results are never guaranteed, however, the Eye Associates Northwest cataract surgeons and medical team are experienced, technically skilled and empathetic. We’ll guide you through the related decision-making process and help ease the nervousness and anxiety associated with surgery.

As your eye care experts, we want your cataract surgery experience to be as smooth and angst-free as possible. This means arming you with information. Are you ready?

Cataract Surgery Basics

It always helps to start at the beginning. Let’s recap the basics.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. They are not a film ON the eye’s surface, but rather, the lens behind the iris (colored part of the eye) becomes cloudy. They usually form gradually, but everyone is different. Most people don’t begin to develop them until their 40s or older, but this can vary. Other non-age-related factors can contribute to the timing of their development and their severity. Certain medications (such as prednisone), diabetes and even ultraviolet light exposure can be contributory factors. Whatever the cause, the surgical treatment is largely the same.

What are the symptoms?

Cataracts cause blurry, foggy, or cloudy vision. Usually, this is a slow process. In some cases, the limited vision only presents during an eye exam. In other cases, it there’s a more rapid loss of vision; the blurry vision is very noticeable. Many people feel as though their eyeglass prescription needs to be “strengthened” while others will report symptoms of glare or starbursts with light. While cataracts are not usually medically urgent, it is important to get your eyes checked in a timely manner if you have symptoms, as there could be other causes for the vision changes. Cataracts are the number one cause of blindness worldwide. Detecting and addressing it at the appropriate time is key to a successful surgery.

What happens during cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is the removal of the clouded natural lens of the eye (NOT a growth on the surface of the eye) which is then replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). State-of-the-art cataract surgery is performed using femtosecond lasers (such as the Alcon LenSx), ultrasound and manual techniques with a steady hand. Our surgeons determine the best surgical approach for your specific situation and tailor the technology to help you achieve your best possible vision.

The key takeaway? Cataract surgery is not painful. You’ll experience sensations of pressure and touch in and around your eye during surgery, but it is very rare for patients to report pain.

More about intraocular lens implants

Intraocular lens implants have evolved dramatically since the first one was used in 1949. Thanks to technology and material advancements, current lens implants can help us see well post-surgery with a minimal dependence on glasses. Our most advanced lens implants are multifocal/trifocal, which can give a range of vision from book reading to computer use to far distance vision simultaneously. Your surgeon and staff will help you determine if you’re a candidate for multifocal technology, such as PanOptix or ReStor(Alcon), Symfony or Tecnis Multifocal (Johnson & Johnson). If you aren’t a multifocal candidate, toric lens implants that correct astigmatism may be your best option. Your surgical result can also be enhanced with the use of the femtosecond laser (Alcon LenSx) during your procedure.

What happens after surgery?

Cataract surgery is nearly always an out-patient procedure. We schedule them at our state-of-the-art Ballard Ambulatory Surgery Center or another qualified facility that you and your surgeon choose. It’s usually a two hours process and you go home the same day..

Post-surgery, you should go home and take it easy. This is a major procedure after all. You may be discharged with a patch covering the eye. Leave this in place (and leave your eye alone) until you’re instructed to remove it or it’s removed at our office the next day. Usually, patients go home wearing sunglasses over their uncovered eye. You may experience a little irritation and/or a sense of something in the eye. You will be using medicated drops immediately to ensure your eye recovers quickly and well.

Don’t expect too much from your vision for the first 24-48 hours – there is a lot of variability. Most people have serviceable vision within 2-3 days and a pretty good idea of where their vision will be after a week. Your best vision may take a month or two. Be patient!

It’s important to take it easy for the first week after surgery. Here are the no-no’s for that first week:

  • No heavy lifting or bending as they place backward pressure on the eye.
  • Don’t rub your eye.
  • Stay out of the swimming pool and hot tub.

As mentioned above, you’ll be prescribed medicated drops – antibiotic/steroid/nonsteroidal – either as separate drops or as a combination drop. Your medical team will instruct you on how to care for your eyes while they heal.

All told, cataract surgery is “one of the most rewarding surgeries to restore vision,” says Eye Associates Northwest Practice Administrator, Kristen Butterfield.

Why use Eye Associates Northwest

Just like cataracts, every eye care provider is different. We work hard to distinguish ourselves. Here are five benefits to entrusting Eye Associates Northwest with your surgery.

  1. Centralized patient information. Our clinics and surgery locations use a centralized patient database. This makes it easy for you to check in for appointments, consultations, surgeries, and follow-up care. Whichever facility you use, your current information is there. No need to fill out any paperwork.
  2. Choice of surgery location. Our Ballard location has an in-house surgery center dedicated solely to eye surgery; however, we partner with surgery facilities throughout the Seattle metro area. This allows you to choose a convenient location convenient while still receiving our professional care.
  3. Experts at each location. No matter which of our four clinics or four partner locations you visit, you will always be seen by an Eye Associates Northwest optical expert. Our doctors are professional leaders who stay abreast of current trends and practices. They bring their extensive knowledge and experience to each consultation, exam, and surgery. Your eyes are in good hands.
  4. A comprehensive selection of replacement lenses. Preparing for your surgery requires choosing replacements lenses. This means you get to decide how you want to see afterwards. Do you want to correct an astigmatism? Do you want to improve your near- or far-sightedness? You can do this with your replacement lens. From monofocal (single, fixed distance) to multifocal (multi-distance) to toric (astigmatism correcting), we offer options that will help you see your best. See our complete menu here
  5. High caliber, state-of-the-art equipment. For laser-assisted surgeries, our surgeons use the LenSx (Alcon) femtosecond laser. This is industry leading technology with the highest safety ratings and highest level of precision. Your eyes are precious, and we want only the best for them.

Seeing well plays a significant role in your overall health and in your quality of life. There’s no reason to let cataracts deprive you of a clear, colorful view of the world. Cataract surgery is a safe, reliable procedure that can have you seeing clearly again in no time. We’re here to make the process as convenient, safe, successful, and long-lasting as possible.

Cataract surgery and Covid-19

Our primary goal is to keep you and our team safe. We are currently seeing patients and scheduling surgeries. We follow these protocols to ensure everyone’s protection:

  • We require masks be worn in our offices.
  • We take the temperature of patients and staff daily.
  • We will ask you a series of health screening questions before you’re seen by a doctor.
  • We ask you to stay home if you have any flu-like symptoms 24 hours before your appointment.

Do you need cataract surgery? Our team of cataract specialists are available to answer questions, provide consultations, and perform your surgery. Contact them today to schedule an examination.