Can I Get LASIK if I Have Cataracts?
Cataracts can feel like a dark cloud hanging over you. You won’t know if you’re one of the lucky ones that requires no treatment. Or, with time, the cataract can grow bigger, making it harder to see and impacting your quality of life. Luckily there’s a solution that has few risks or downsides with a fast recovery time and excellent results.
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are cloudy patches in the lens of the eye. Cloudiness occurs when proteins in the lens begin to break down and clump together from middle age. A cataract can get worse if the cloudiness on the lens gets bigger. The cataract makes it difficult to focus light so the vision can become blurry, hazy, or less colourful. Some people complain of poor night vision and lights seeming too bright or having a halo around them. A person may have a cataract in one eye or both, but they don’t spread from one eye to the next.
Causes of Cataracts
Age is the biggest cause of cataracts. In Australia, over 31% of people over the age of 55 have a cataract. Some people have a cataract caused by an eye injury or following surgery to correct another eye problem such as glaucoma. Besides age and other eye problems, people are most at risk of cataracts if they:
- Drink alcohol in excess
- Have a family history for cataracts
- Take medications for arthritis or allergies
- Suffer from diabetes
- The risk of developing a cataract later in life can be reduced by:
- Quitting smoking
- Protecting the eyes from injury
- Protecting eyes from the sun
- Eating a healthy diet
Diagnosing & Treating Cataracts
An eye exam every 2 years can identify cataracts that may be present. People of any age can have a cataract and regular eye examinations can detect if you have one.
Many people manage the early stages of a cataract with magnifying glasses for reading or stronger lighting for working. A stronger prescription for glasses or contact lenses may be needed. Once people find they are struggling to read, drive, or enjoy their hobbies, they will usually speak to their doctor about a diagnosis and treatment. Surgery is the only treatment option for a cataract.
Laser Eye Surgery
There’s more than one type of laser eye surgery. Each one is used to treat different patients and their eye conditions. Your surgeon will explain the options available and recommend the surgery that is best for you.
LASIK Laser Eye Surgery
The most common form of laser eye surgery is LASIK. It’s used to treat 3 main conditions:
- Nearsightedness (myopia): difficulty seeing distant objects
- Farsightedness (hyperopia): difficulty seeing items up close
- Astigmatism: an irregular eye shape that results in blurry vision or uneven and distorted objects
However, LASIK isn’t used to remove cataracts. LASIK works by creating a corneal flap then removing corneal tissue to change the shape of the eye before replacing the hinged flap over the eye without needing stitches to hold it.
Cataract eye surgery is different to LASIK. Instead of reshaping the eye with LASIK, cataract patients need their cloudy lens removed and replaced with an artificial lens. A laser can make a precise 2 mm incision in the lens or a scalpel. The cataract and lens are removed, and the new intraocular lens is unfolded and stays in position. After surgery the cataract can’t return because the new lens is artificial.
Patients with cataracts in both eyes usually have surgery on one eye first and then on the other one a few days or weeks later. Some medications can interfere with cataract surgery, so it’s important to tell your surgeon if you’re taking any medications.
FAQs for Laser Eye Surgery
If you have cataracts and are considering laser eye surgery, you probably have questions. Here are answers to the most common questions.
How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?
For most people, day surgery is only required for removing cataracts. The anaesthesia can make patients drowsy post-operation but limits pain. After the operation, patients are usually ready to leave within a few hours because they are awake during surgery and recovery is quick.
What is the success rate for cataract laser surgery?
The success rate for cataract surgery is very high. One study of 221,000 cataract surgeries found the success rate to be 99.5% of patients not suffering a serious complication.
What are the complication risks of surgery?
Luckily, complications from laser eye surgery and cataract surgery are very rare. The following risks are possible but rare:
- Infection in the eye
- High pressure within the eye
- Artificial lens damage
- Eyelid droops
- Retinal detachment
- Bleeding inside the eye
- Cornea swells or clouds
Further surgery is required to fix or improve most of these conditions. In a tiny number of cases, a patient has experienced blindness or loss of an eye.
Is cataract surgery required quickly to prevent damage to the eyes?
No, delaying cataract surgery won’t cause long-term damage to your eyes or make the surgery more difficult. Just remember to have your eyes tested regularly and discuss when you might need surgery to improve your vision.
When will I know the results of surgery?
Due to the short recovery, most patients report having improved vision within a few days following surgery.
If I have LASIK surgery as a young adult, what will I do if I need a cataract surgery later in life?
Previous LASIK patients are suitable candidates for cataract surgery later. Patients should supply details of their eye health records to the surgeon to help with deciding on the most appropriate lens implant. However, the opposite order of procedures isn’t possible. A patient can’t have LASIK surgery after cataract surgery.
Contact Lions Laser Vision
Please call us at Lions Laser Vision and speak with one of our clinical coordinators who will be able to answer your questions and schedule an initial consultation with one of our refractive surgeons.
Alternatively, complete the form below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
PHONE: 08 9381 0758
FAX: 08 9381 0700
Lions Eye Institute
Lions Laser Vision
2 Verdun Street
Nedlands WA 6009
St John of God Murdoch
Murdoch Medical Centre
100 Murdoch Dr
Murdoch WA 6150