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Des Moines Eye Surgeons
5901 Westown Parkway
Suite 200
West Des Moines, IA 50266

5901 Westown Parkway, Suite 200, West Des Moines, IA 50266


West Des Moines Cataract Surgery

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. This clouding can be the reason sharp images become blurred, bright colors become dull, seeing at night is more difficult or why your reading glasses no longer seem to help. The most common cause of cataracts is related to the aging of the eye.  Other causes of cataract development may include the use of high-risk medications such as prolonged steroid use, family history, history of an eye injury, previous ocular surgery and chronic exposure to ultra-violet light from the sun.

Many patients think that a cataract is actually a film that spreads over the surface of the eye. Some patients are even concerned that cataracts will make them go blind. In reality, a cataract is a naturally occurring change in the eye that is a gradual clouding that makes vision less sharp over time. Patients typically report the sensation of looking through the wax paper, they often have trouble driving at night and colors seems very dull. As you already know the eye works much like a camera and like a camera the lens must be very clear to see well. A healthy transparent lens absorbs light and accurately focuses it onto the retina, providing a crisp clear image. As the aging process takes hold of our eyes proteins begin to clump together forming opaque clusters. Over time these protein deposits eventually cloud the entire lens allowing significantly less light to pass through. The small amount of light that does make it through is diffused or scattered leaving vision defocused. These protein clusters can also change the color of the normally clear lens making it a yellowish brown color.

Eye with a Cataract vs. Healthy Eyes

Please feel free to visit the other pages of the cataract center on the Des Moines Eye Surgeons ophthalmology website. You might begin with the cataract surgery page to get a better understanding of how the surgical process works. Major advancements in technology have made modern day cataract surgery much easier than the past. No longer are long hospitalizations required to have cataracts removed. Please also feel free to learn more about our premium lens implants as well.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

  • A gradual, painless blurring of vision
  • Glare or sensitivity to light
  • Poor night vision
  • Needing brighter light to read
  • Fading or yellowing of colors

How are Cataracts treated?

Cataract surgery is the only way a cataract can be treated. However, if the symptoms of the cataract are tolerable and you can maintain your level of daily activities, surgery may not be needed. Sometimes during the early development of the cataract, a simple change in your glasses prescription will improve your vision. Surgery should be considered when cataracts cause enough loss of clarity to interfere with daily activities.

No medications, dietary supplements, or eye exercises have been shown to prevent or cure cataracts.  Protection from the ultra-violet light from the sun may slow down the progression of cataract development.

What is Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed medical procedures, with over 3 million surgeries performed each year. It is also one of the most successful surgeries performed. It is usually performed on an outpatient basis which means you do not have to spend the night in the hospital. It is generally performed under topical (eyedrops) anesthesia.

On the day of surgery, your eye will be dilated with eye drops. Once your pupil has been properly dilated, you will be taken to the operating room.  The procedure to remove the cataract takes approximately 10 minutes. First, the surgeon will make a tiny incision at the outer edge of your cornea. The surgeon will then use an ultrasound-powered instrument to liquefy and remove your cataract. This part of the procedure is called phacoemulsification. Once the cloudy lens has been removed, the surgeon will place a new, clear intraocular lens in its place.

After surgery, your doctor will place a shield over the operated eye before you go home. Drops will be prescribed to prevent infection and inflammation in the eye. You will also receive detailed post-operative instructions.

What are Intraocular Lenses?

When the cloudy lens is removed from your eye during cataract surgery, the surgeon will replace it with a new, clear intraocular lens implant. There are different types of intraocular lens implants available to choose from. The options include a standard intraocular lens, toric intraocular lens or a premium intraocular lens.

An intraocular lens, commonly called an IOL, is a tiny, lightweight, clear-plastic disk, which is placed in the eye during cataract surgery to replace the eye’s natural lens.

The eye’s normally clear, natural lens allows light to pass through it and focus on the retina. When a cataract forms, the lens becomes cloudy and light can no longer pass freely through it. The only way to remove the cataract is to remove the lens itself.

Frequently Asked Cataract Surgery Questions

Can I see without a lens?

No, the eye cannot focus properly without a lens. To restore focusing power after cataract surgery, cataract glasses, a contact lens or an intraocular lens must be substituted. Rarely, an IOL cannot be inserted, but at least 90 percent of the people who have cataract surgery have an intraocular lens implant.

What are the advantages of an IOL lens implant?

Unlike contact lenses which must be removed daily or periodically for cleaning, an IOL implant is permanent. And, unlike cataract glasses which magnify images, an IOL produces a normally-sized and shaped image on the retina, replacing the focusing power of the natural lens more closely than either cataract glasses or contact lenses.

What are the risks?

Today’s implants are quite safe. But with any surgery, complications can occur. There is always a possibility of hemorrhage, infection or vision loss during eye surgery. Your eye doctor will discuss potential complications with you.

How will an IOL affect my vision?

An IOL cannot adjust its focus for both close and distant vision as the eye’s natural lens does. With the help of an ultrasound test (an A-scan) and the computer, your ophthalmologist can determine the general focusing power of the IOL before surgery. Although distance vision is usually quite good, bifocal or reading glasses are often necessary for close work.

Most people experience a return of 20/40 vision good enough for a driver’s license shortly after surgery, but the results can never be guaranteed. Your postoperative vision depends on the health of the eye. If there are changes in the retina from aging or other conditions, vision will not be perfect even though the surgery was successfully performed.

What if I have astigmatism?

The traditional replacement lens implanted when a cataract is removed clears the vision, but cannot correct astigmatism. There have been recent advancements in cataract surgery to treat astigmatism, however. The AcrySof Toric Lens is a foldable, single piece lens that an eye surgeon implants during cataract surgery to replace the clouded lens. The unique design of the AcrySof Toric IOL makes it possible to reduce or eliminate corneal astigmatism and significantly improve uncorrected distance vision. The AcrySof Toric lens provides QUALITY distance vision, independent of eyeglasses and contact lenses. If freedom from eyeglasses for distance vision is important to you, this is your ideal option.

With advancements in cataract surgery, the new AcrySof Toric IOL makes it possible to reduce or even eliminate corneal astigmatism and significantly improve uncorrected distance vision allowing one the ability to be free of eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Where will the lens be placed?

An IOL is usually centered within the pupil either in front of or behind the iris. The iris is a colored ring of tissue that surrounds the pupil and expands or contracts to adjust to varying degrees of light.

The most popular placement site today is behind the iris in the posterior chamber where the eye’s natural lens is located. When removing the clouded lens, your ophthalmologist will leave behind the lens’ sack-like outer membrane or capsule. The intraocular lens is placed in the pocket formed by the emptied lens membrane and held in place by a pair of loops

Standard Intraocular Lens (IOL)

Standard or single-focus IOL’s focus your vision for a single distance. This means that your surgeon can set the focus for distance so you will have good distance vision without the use of glasses and then wear glasses for near and intermediate (computer) activities. The surgeon could also set the focus for near so you will have good near vision without the use of reading glasses and then wear glasses to see far distances.

Toric Intraocular Lens (IOL)

Toric IOL’s can correct for astigmatism. Astigmatism occurs when the surface of your cornea is curved in such a way that it distorts your vision. If you have a cataract and corneal astigmatism, you will not have sharp distance vision after cataract surgery unless the astigmatism is corrected. Your surgeon can use a toric IOL to correct for astigmatism which would result in having clear distance vision without the need for glasses. Most patients will still need glasses for near and intermediate tasks.

Advanced Technology Intraocular Lens (IOL)

Premium or multifocal IOL’s can focus on multiple distances and therefore reduce or eliminate the need for glasses.  People with active lifestyles often prefer the enhanced range of vision provided by the premium implants. The premium IOL’s available include Technis Multifocal, ReSTOR, and Crystalens.  If you like the idea of decreasing your dependence on glasses for most activities, ask your surgeon if you are a candidate for a premium implant.

Request an appointment with Des Moines Eye Surgeons. Iowa’s cataract surgery specialists.