Cataracts are a common eye condition that affects many people, especially as they age. Regular eye exams can help detect and monitor these changes when they occur to ensure proper treatment.
Cataract surgery removes the cloudy lens to restore vision once impaired by the cataract. However, a question that many people ask is whether cataracts can return after surgery.
Once the cloudy lens is gone, you now have an artificial lens, so cataracts cannot return after surgery. But, in some cases, a membrane that supports the artificial lens may become cloudy, causing vision to become blurry again.
What Is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens in the eye that affects vision. The lens is a transparent, flexible structure located behind the iris (the coloured part of the eye) that helps to focus light onto the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).
When a cataract forms, the lens becomes cloudy. Cataracts occur from age-related changes, can develop slowly, and can affect one or both eyes. Besides age, there are other causes of cataracts, including:
- Eye injury
- Eye surgery
- Eye conditions, such as glaucoma
- Certain medications or medical conditions, such as diabetes
Symptoms of Cataracts
Initially, with mild cataracts, you might not have any symptoms. As the cataract grows, you may begin to notice the following symptoms:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Colours look faded
- Poor night vision
- Light sensitivity
- Seeing halos around lights
- Double vision
- Frequent glasses or contact lens prescription changes
Treatment for Cataracts
Cataract treatment involves surgery to remove a cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant. Here’s a general overview of cataract surgery:
- Before the surgery, your eye doctor will numb your eyes with local anesthesia and dilate your eyes using eye drops.
- A small incision is made in the cornea (transparent front part of the eye).
- An ultrasound probe breaks the cloudy lens into tiny pieces and sucks it out of the eye.
- The new artificial lens goes into the eye. You are unlikely to require stitches to close the incision on the cornea.
- You may wear a protective shield or patch on the day of surgery.
- After cataract surgery, your vision can be blurry until your eye heals and adjusts to the new lens. Vision generally improves in a few days.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that can take less than an hour, meaning the patient can go home the same day. Recovery time is usually quick, and most people can resume their normal activities within a few days to a week after surgery.
Can Cataracts Return after Cataract Surgery?
Cataracts do not return after surgery. During cataract surgery, the natural cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant. So, removing the lens eliminates the cataract.
However, sometimes you can develop a condition called posterior capsular opacification (PCO) or a “secondary cataract.” It’s not a cataract returning but can have similar symptoms.
In some cases, it affects the part of the eye that holds the lens in place and can become cloudy over time. Vision can become blurry or hazy again.
Vision changes from a secondary cataract can occur within the first few months or years after surgery, and symptoms can include:
- Cloudy vision
- Double vision
- Increased glare or halos
- Reduced colour contrast
If this happens, you won’t need to have cataract surgery again. Treatment for PCO is with corrective surgery called YAG laser capsulotomy, a quick laser procedure to restore clear vision.
Secondary cataracts affect about one-third of those who have cataract surgery. Follow-up visits with your eye doctor are therefore vital.
Risk for Developing Secondary Cataracts
There is no sure way to say if you will develop a secondary cataract, but certain factors can increase your risk, such as:
- Being younger than 60 at the time of cataract surgery
- If you have glaucoma
- If you had retina surgery
How to Prevent Cataracts?
There’s no guaranteed way to prevent cataracts, but you can slow their progression by taking the following measures:
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants
- Wear protective eyewear especially quality sunglasses
- Quit smoking
- Avoid alcohol
- Exercise regularly
Preventing Vision Loss with Cataract Surgery
While cataracts generally do not return after surgery, PCO can occur and cause vision to become blurry again. However, it’s easily treatable with a quick laser procedure.
It’s essential to have regular eye exams to monitor any changes in vision and catch any potential problems early on to prevent vision loss. Book an appointment with View Pointe Vision + Style for an eye exam in Winnipeg!