The lens of the eye becomes cloudy as one grows older. This can develop into a cataract, which is a cloudy, painless area that often results in diminished vision. The cloudy lens, which is enclosed in a lens capsule, is separated from the capsule through cataract surgery and often replaced with an intraocular lens implant (IOL). People who do not get an IOL must use eyeglasses or contact lenses to be able to see without their natural lens.
Cataract surgery consists of phacoemulsification and extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE), which are usually done in an outpatient setting. Most procedures are done using a topical anesthetic in the form of eyedrops or local anesthetic injections. A sedative may also be administered for relaxation during surgery.
Complications from cataract surgery that affect vision occur in fewer than 10 percent of patients. The risk of complications is low, but these may include:
- Infection in the eye
- Swelling in the nerve layer of the eye
- Corneal edema
- Retinal detachment
- Clouding of the lens capsule (called aftercataract)
- Strabismus (cross-eyed)
In many patients, however, light sensitivity, glare, and night driving problems are more common. Halos and glare after cataract surgery can be caused by many factors. Some people have problems with their vision when it is sunny and when light is reflected from objects. Glare can interfere with vision, especially when driving facing the sun, looking across a snow-covered surface or a beach on a sunny day. These symptoms can also occur after undergoing other types of eye surgeries such as radial keratotomy and laser surgery (LASIK or PRK).
Patients experience glare after cataract surgery when light scattering occurs at the edges of the new IOLs, which are made of crystal-clear material. IOLs permit more light to pass through than your natural lens, which were replaced, thus you may have to adjust to seeing brighter lights and vivid colors than you were used to before your surgery. IOLs can produce light flares, glare, or halo effects at night when the pupil is open wide, allowing light to reflect off the edges of your implants.
In most cases, however, light sensitivity and glare are temporary problems that resolve after a few weeks as your eyes and brain adjust. Many people report that being able to see far and near outweighs other visual side effects associated with the new lens. In a few cases, the problem persists and some patients may need another operation.
The choice of IOL may affect your eyes' sensitivity to light after cataract surgery. Cataract replacement with multifocal lenses is more likely to cause glares than monofocal lenses. However, multifocal lenses help you see both distant and near objects. Ask your doctor about the type of IOL you will have and the risk of experiencing halos and glare after cataract surgery.
Another possible cause of light sensitivity after cataract surgery is dislocation of the intraocular lens. This may be accompanied by other symptoms such as optical effects, decrease in vision, floaters, and ghost images.
Simple steps to reduce light sensitivity and glare after eye surgery include:
- Wearing polarized sunglasses.
- Using a vehicle visor to keep out direct sunlight from your eyes.
- Using photo chromatic lenses that help reduce the effects of glare due to eye abnormalities.
- Adjusting the lights and television color to avoid glare.
If your eye problem persists after a few weeks, consult your eye specialist for further treatment.
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