By Dr. David A. Palay

A cataract is the clouding that occurs in your eyes as you age. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S., affecting everyday activities like reading, watching TV, or driving at night.

Sometimes symptoms of a cataract may be improved with new glasses or brighter lighting. But most people with cataracts will need cataract surgery. The good news is that cataract surgery today is faster, more effective and safer than ever before.

Common symptoms of cataracts include cloudy, blurry or faded vision, glare or frequent eyeglass prescription changes. Some people also experience double vision, or multiple images in one eye. People in their 40s and 50s may have cataracts, but it is usually only around age 60 or older that they might begin to affect a person’s vision.

While cataract surgery can be performed manually by the surgeon, femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery offers a higher level of precision. The laser creates a perfect circular incision into the lens and the lens is fragmented into smaller pieces. Any astigmatism is treated with corneal incisions.

Once the cataract is prepared, the second part of the procedure involves removing the lens fragments and inserting a lens. The lens inserted can correct higher levels of astigmatism and be targeted for near vision or distance vision. Some people elect “monovision,” which is one eye targeted for near vision and the other eye targeted for distance vision. A lens that provides both distance and near vision in the same eye also is available.

The traditional cataract surgery and femtosecond laser surgery methods have similar outcomes for patients with no astigmatism. The safety of the procedure and recovery with the femtosecond laser versus traditional technique is the same.

Nearly all patients are candidates for both techniques. It boils down to how much astigmatism you have and whether you want to be less dependent on glasses after surgery. For those with astigmatism who want to be less dependent on glasses after surgery, the femtosecond laser option is better.

Before agreeing to laser surgery, schedule a consultation with your surgeon to ask questions and make sure you are comfortable with the doctor and facility.

Dr. David A. Palay is a board certified ophthalmologist affiliated with Northside Hospital. Dr. Palay specializes in cataract surgery, corneal transplant surgery and refractive surgery. For more information, call 404-252-1194 or visit http://www.northside.com/ophthalmology.

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