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Cataract Surgery Complications

Cataract Surgery Complications

A cataract can develop gradually over time. It causes the natural lens of the eye to lose its transparency. This condition can be treated with surgery, which usually does not cause any complications. Occasionally, a few complications can appear in some individuals, which are explained in this article.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018
Cataracts refer to the condition, where the natural transparent lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque. This lens is responsible for focusing light on the retina, which is important for the formation of a clear image. But when the lens becomes opaque, clear images cannot form on the retina, which in turn distorts vision or leads to vision impairment.
What causes cataracts is not very clear, but it has been observed that this condition can result from metabolic changes or changes in the protein structure of the lens. A cataract usually develops gradually over time. The treatment of this condition is cataract surgery, which is a very safe procedure. But still, certain complications can appear at times. In general, the complications are minor, and they resolve within a short period of time with proper post-operative care.
The Surgery
The cataract surgery involves the removal of the natural crystalline lens of the eye, that has become opaque over the years. This lens is then replaced with an artificial intraocular lens. This artificial lens is implanted in the elastic lens capsule, called posterior capsule, after removing the natural lens from it. There are basically two types of cataract surgery - phacoemulsification, and the conventional extracapsular cataract extraction.
In phacoemulsification procedure, a machine with an ultrasonic hand-piece, equipped with a steel or titanium tip, is used to break the lens into fragments, and then emulsify the lens material. The lens and the cortical material are then removed by aspiration. In the conventional extracapsular cataract extraction, a large incision is made in the cornea or the sclera in order to remove the lens.
Cataract Surgery Dangers
About 90% of the patients undergoing this surgery experience a significant improvement in vision without having any serious complications. An infection following the surgery is quite rare, but can occur and become serious at times. This can cause redness and pain in the affected eye.
One of the most common complications is posterior capsular opacification. This is a complication, where the cells of the posterior lens capsule undergo hyperplasia. This causes thickening and clouding of the lens capsule, which can lead to blurred vision. This condition can be corrected by an ophthalmologist by making some small holes in the lens capsule by using a laser device.
Another complication associated with this eye surgery is tearing or rupture of the lens capsule, which can occur during the surgery. The incidence of this complication is quite low, but if this happens, the surgeon performs vitrectomy. Sometimes, the lens is implanted in the ciliary sulcus or in the anterior chamber. Apart from these, retinal detachment and inflammation of the eye or uveitis can also occur after the surgery. Retinal detachment is the condition, where the retina gets separated from the inner wall of the eye. It can occur a few weeks, months, or years after the surgery.
Sometimes, fluid retention or edema can also occur in the central part of the retina (the macula) following the surgery. This condition is known as cystoid macular edema. However, this complication resolves within a few weeks with proper treatment. In addition to these, some other cataract eye surgery complications are, displacement of the implanted intraocular lens, bleeding inside the front and back of the eye, incision leak, infections of the intraocular tissue or endophthalmitis, and glaucoma.
Astigmatism can develop if the corneal incision does not seal properly, which can distort the shape of the cornea. Temporary astigmatism can also be caused by the swelling of the cornea, and it resolves when the swelling subsides. The minor complications associated with this surgery go away within a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, it is important to know the various aspects of this surgery, and its complications before considering to remove the cataract. If any complication appear after the surgery, then be sure to seek immediate medical attention.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.