Demystifying Cataracts

If you are over the age of 60, there’s a very good chance that you will develop cataracts within the next 20 years or so.

A cataract is the result of the natural lens inside of your eye becoming cloudy. It’s caused by the proteins in the lens breaking down- most commonly related to age- and it leads to progressively worsening vision. The only way to permanently cure a cataract is with surgery but it can take many years before a cataract reaches the point where it needs to be surgically removed. Until that time, it is important to have regular eye exams to allow your optometrist to monitor the progression of your cataract, manage your symptoms and to make sure you have the best vision possible.  Your optometrist will adjust your contact lens or eyeglass prescription as needed and will also perform visual acuity test and other tests to gauge increased sensitivity to light and glare as well as deterioration in your color vision and visual contrast.

Time for Surgery:

At some point, updating your prescription may no longer work to give you the vision you need, and your optometrist will determine that it’s time for surgery.  The doctor will then recommend an ophthalmologist to perform the surgery. At Koetting Eye center, our doctors work closely with most surgeons in the area and will comanage your care.  This means that we are in constant communication with the ophthalmologist and that we will perform the follow-up care to your surgery in our office and report all findings back to them.

Once you have been referred to the surgeon, you will make an initial appointment with them for consultation. At this point, they will discuss the options for the artificial lenses to be implanted in your eye to replace your natural lenses. If you are a contact lens wearer, you may be asked to stop wearing your contacts for a certain period of time before you return for your pre-operative exam with the surgeon.

At the pre-operative exam they will determine the prescription and measurements of the lens to be implanted. This new lens will also correct your vision so that depending upon the type of lens chosen, once the surgery is completed you may only need glasses for reading or perhaps you may not need glasses at all!

Once you have had this exam, you will be given a date for the surgery on your first eye.  If you have cataracts in both eyes you’ll likely get two separate surgeries a few weeks apart. This gives the first eye a chance to heal.

Surgery Day:

You will probably be asked not to eat or drink for 12 hours before the surgery.

You will be awake during the surgery but your eye will be numb so you will not feel any pain.  You will likely have an IV and be given medication to help you relax.

Surgery typically takes less than an hour, and you will not need to stay overnight, but you will need someone to drive you home. Most people will notice that their vision is already improving immediately after the surgery but it will take about 8 weeks to heal completely and you will be given a regimen of eyedrops to use in the weeks following the procedure. It is important to use the drops as directed in order to heal properly, prevent infection and achieve the best possible result.

The Next Day and Beyond:

When our doctors comanage your care, you will see us the day after your surgery for the follow up visit. You will also return for follow up one week later and again one month after the initial surgery date. Once it’s clear that the first eye is healing as expected, you should be given an appointment to begin the process on the second eye if needed.

 A Few Helpful Details:

Since the procedure is surgical, the doctor visits and the surgery itself will be filed under your medical insurance, but there is typically some out of pocket cost involved.

As you are waiting for the first eye to heal, that lens will be removed from your glasses so you can still see with both eyes – or if you wear contacts, you can continue to wear a contact lens in the non-surgical eye in order to see properly.

Once the natural lens in your eye is replaced with the artificial lens, you will never get another cataract. However, sometimes several years after your surgery the capsule or tissue in your eye which holds the lens in place can become cloudy or wrinkled causing blurred vision.  This is sometimes called a “secondary cataract” or “scar tissue”. This is resolved by a simple procedure with a YAG laser (called a YAG capsulotomy) which will make your vision clear once again.

 The Good News:

Cataract surgery is a very safe and low risk surgery.  It is quick and painless and it will help you to see again. Most patients report that cataract surgery is the best surgery they have ever had and that they wish they could have done it sooner. Rest assured that at Koetting Eye Center, our doctors are highly skilled and have extensive experience in treating cataracts.  We work with the top surgeons in the area and we will make every effort to ensure that you achieve the very best vision possible after your surgery. Contact us today to schedule an exam and cataract screening and see clearly again!


  2511 South Brentwood Blvd.
St. Louis, Missouri 63144

    (314) 863-0000




 113 Old State Road Suite 101
Ellisville, Missouri 63021

    (636) 256-7800