Dear Mayo Clinic: I was just diagnosed with a cataract, but it’s not bothering me at all. Is it a good idea to have cataract surgery now, or can I wait? What is the recovery from this surgery like?
A: It’s not uncommon for a cataract to develop slowly, so you may not notice vision problems right away or the problems may be minimal. Eventually, the cataract will begin to obscure your eyesight, making images blurry, clouded or dim. But if your vision hasn’t yet been affected, there’s no harm in putting off cataract surgery for now.
A cataract occurs when the naturally clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy. The lens is positioned behind the colored part of your eye, called the iris. It focuses light that passes into your eye, producing clear, sharp images on the retina. Normally, the eye’s lens is transparent and clear. Once symptoms develop, having cataracts is like looking through a dirty or foggy windshield: You may still be able to drive, but the more compromised your view is, the greater your risk of an accident. Fortunately, surgery to remove cataracts is generally safe and highly effective. In almost all cases, cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that takes around 20 minutes. During the procedure, an eye surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a plastic lens implant. The replacement lens sits in the same place your natural lens had been. This artificial lens is durable and never needs to be replaced in most cases. Cataract surgery clears vision in about 95% of cases. In addition to correcting the cataract, the artificial lens placed during cataract surgery often can correct distance or close-up vision, if needed. However, you still may need vision correction with glasses or contact lenses for close-up work, distance or both.
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