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Ask a Doc: Are there different types of cataract surgery?

AAD HulseburgOur answer come from Dr. Kevin Hulseberg.

Question:  Are there different types of cataract surgery?

Answer:  Most eye doctors suggest considering cataract surgery when your cataracts begin to affect your quality of life or interfere with your ability to perform normal daily activities, such as reading or driving at night.

There are three types of cataract surgery. Your doctor can explain the differences and help determine which is better for you:

  • Phacoemulsification, or phaco. A small incision is made on the side of the cornea and a tiny probe is inserted. This device emits ultrasound waves that soften and break up the lens so that it can be removed by suction. Most cataract surgery today is done by phacoemulsification, also called "small incision cataract surgery."
  • Laser assisted surgery. A laser is utilized for creating the incision in the cornea and lens of the eye to break it up so the lens can be aspirated.
  • Extracapsular surgery. Your doctor makes a longer incision on the side of the cornea and removes the cloudy core of the lens in one piece. The rest of the lens is removed by suction.

After the natural lens has been removed, it often is replaced by an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL is a clear, plastic lens that requires no care and becomes a permanent part of your eye. You will not feel or see the new lens.

Some people cannot have an IOL. They may have another eye disease or have problems during surgery. For these patients, a soft contact lens, or glasses that provide high magnification, may be suggested.

Need to find an eye doctor to evaluate your cataracts? Call the HMC Health Promotion Line for a listing of ophthalmologists at (413) 534-2789.

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