Cataract Awareness Month | ASCRS

Cataract Awareness Month

June is Cataract Awareness Month

Did you know that cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide? Did you know that cataracts can be treated with cataract surgery, one of the most common elective procedures in the U.S.? Did you know cataract surgery and its ability to restore vision has been associated with significant improvements in quality of life? 

Well, this Cataract Awareness Month, ASCRS, the largest specialty society in the U.S. dedicated to cataract surgery education and the needs of anterior segment surgeons with input from member ophthalmologist on what they want patients to know most, has put together materials to help patients and caregivers better understand cataracts and cataract surgery.

ASCRS surveyed its member ophthalmologists in April 2023 for the purpose of Cataract Awareness Month, asking what some of the most common questions and misconceptions they think patients have with this procedure. We’ve used some of these responses to direct and inform Cataract Awareness Month materials.

Additional information will be posted on this page throughout the month of June. 

Q&A with an Ophthalmologist
What is a cataract?

Many patients think that a cataract is like a skin on the eye or on the lens itself. In reality, a cataract occurs, in most cases, as part of the natural aging process as cells in the lens begin to clump together more and more. Over time, this becomes an increasingly visually significant cataract.


What are the risks of cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery, while one of the most common elective surgeries in the U.S., like any surgery, it has risks, though rare. Certain conditions can increase risks for complications; your ophthalmologist will have individualized discussions with you about the risks and benefits of cataract surgery. There are, at times, unexpected complications that can occur during surgery. There are risks for infection postop—take your postop drops and follow other postop instructions as advised to help avoid this.


What is recovery from cataract surgery like?

Cataract surgery recovery often includes a postoperative course of antibiotics, steroids, and/or NSAIDs. In general patients can expect a postop day 1 visit and a postop week 1 visit. They can get back to daily activities, such as driving or return to work within a few days. 

What lens should I choose?

This is a complicated question that is dependent on a patient’s visual needs, wants, lifestyle, as well as the health of their eye. I tell patients to remember that this lens will be the lens they have for the rest of their life. Some patients are happy with lenses that correct distance vision only (standard monofocal lenses), while others opt to pay out of pocket for lenses that can correct some of their near, intermediate, and distance vision (multifocal, EDOF, trifocal, and light adjustable lenses).  


Will I need glasses after cataract surgery?

The short answer is yes, at times. Patients who choose a monofocal intraocular lens should be able to see at distance without glasses, but will need glasses for intermediate and near work. Patients who choose a multifocal, trifocal, or extended-depth-of-focus intraocular lens will have more independence from glasses but might, at times, need to wear glasses in certain settings. 


How much will cataract surgery cost?

For most, cataract surgery is covered by Medicare, commercial insurance plans, and there are cash pay options as well. For patients who don’t fall into these categories, cataract surgery may be covered through charitable programs, like the ASCRS Foundation’s Operation Sight. 


Cataract misconception #1: Your vision will be like it was before cataracts. Fact: While modern medicine has made several advances to improve vision after cataract surgery, there is no procedure or current technology that will give you the vision of a 20-year-old. Intraocular lenses, which are implanted into the eye after the cataract is removed, are designed to address distance vision (monofocal) and some have the capability to provide near and intermediate vision (multifocal, trifocal, and extended depth of focus). However, even these latter implants are not perfect and patients might still need to use glasses after surgery.

Cataract misconception #2: You need to wait until your cataract is fully mature before having surgery. Fact: Waiting until the cataract is “fully mature” could actually lead to a more complicated surgery. It is best to have cataract surgery when your cataract is interfering with your vision and when your ophthalmologist says it is the right time to do so.

Cataract misconception #3: Your cataract could come back. Fact: When an ophthalmologist removes a cataract, they’ve taken away the lens material that was clouded to begin with. There are other conditions that could cause clouding on the surface of the eye or within the eye, but this is not the cataract coming back nor is it necessarily related to cataract surgery.

Cataract misconception #4: Cataract surgery is an “easy” procedure. Fact: Cataract surgery is one of the most common elective surgeries in the U.S. and can have dramatic, sight-restoring effects postop, but it is still an outpatient procedure that involves anesthesia and complex maneuvers from highly educated and skilled surgeons working within an incredibly small space. Cataract surgery is complex, intense, and involves operating on a sense that patients are most fearful to lose and eager to gain back with this procedure.

Cataract misconception #5: That cataract surgery is performed with a laser. Fact: Some surgeons do use a laser to perform aspects of cataract surgery, but it is not needed for any part of the procedure.

Cataract surgery patients need to take a lot of time off from their usual activities. Fact: While cataract surgery does have a recovery period, most patients who have a standard, uncomplicated cataract surgery see well enough to drive and return to their normal activities within a few days.

Thank you to Ralph Chu, MD, a member of the ASCRS Cataract Clinical Committee, who reviewed content for this Cataract Awareness Month effort. 


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