Can Cataracts Return After Surgery?

Any patient anticipating Cataract Surgery will understandably have many questions and concerns during the run-up to the procedure. From worries about surgery and the recovery process to general queries about cataracts themselves, we’ve heard it all here at London Vision Clinic. For example, one common concern many patients share is this: Can cataracts return after surgery?

Cataracts and Cataract Surgery

The development of cataracts becomes increasingly common as we get older. In fact, cataracts are considered a natural part of the eye’s ageing process with an estimated 42% of adults aged 75-79 believed to be affected.

This high prevalence thankfully means that Cataract Surgery – the only effective treatment for cataracts – has become a routine procedure in many parts of the world. In fact, hundreds of thousands of Cataract Surgeries are conducted every year in the UK, alone.

How Does it Work?

Cataracts occur when the proteins in the eye’s natural lenses begin to break down and clump together. This clumping eventually causes the lens to become cloudy, causing obstruction to the patient’s vision which continues to worsen over time. If left untreated, cataracts can lead to significant vision loss; it is estimated that around one-third of blindness cases are caused by cataracts.

Cataract surgery is a straightforward procedure that involves removing the cataract and replacing the eye’s natural lens with an artificial one. A surgeon creates a small incision in the surface of the eye (using either a blade or a laser) in order to access the cataract. While this may sound scary, Cataract Surgery is usually a painless and speedy procedure.

But what about after the surgery?

Can Cataracts come back after treatment?

The short answer to this question is: No. As Cataract Surgery involves removing the eye’s natural lens, it is not possible for cataracts to develop again after treatment.

The artificial lens – known as an intraocular lens or IOL – which is implanted to replace the natural lens cannot “grow” cataracts, so you can rest easy that you will never have to go through the procedure on the same eye twice. However, in some cases, patients may experience a return of cloudy vision sometime after their surgery.

The important thing to note is that, while this may appear similar to a cataract, this re-clouding is simply a side effect of the surgery. This is known as Posterior Capsule Opacification (PCO) and, thankfully, there is a straightforward solution.

PCO and YAG Capsulotomy

While the majority of Cataract Surgeries are completed successfully without the occurrence of complications, in some cases further treatment may be required. For example, Posterior Capsule Opacification (PCO) is estimated to occur in around 25% of patients within the first five years after Cataract Surgery.

PCO occurs when cells remaining after the removal of the cataract remain in the eye. Over time, these cells begin to grow over the back (the posterior) of the lens capsule, in which the IOL has been placed.

Eventually, this can cause the lens capsule to thicken and become cloudy (opacification), which disrupts the way light enters the eye. As well as causing blurred or cloudy vision, PCO can also cause glare, particularly at night.

The solution to this re-clouding is a simple laser procedure known as YAG Capsulotomy.

This painless, low-risk procedure creates a small hole in the back of the lens capsule. This small hole allows light to once again pass through the cloudy membrane of the capsule effectively, allowing it to reach the retina at the back of the eye.

YAG Capsulotomy is an outpatient procedure which is often completed in a matter of minutes. Recovery is speedy and complications are rare, so the vast majority of patients are back to enjoying better vision in a few hours.

To Conclude…

So, to sum up, while cloudy vision may occur after Cataract Surgery, you can rest assured that this isn’t a sign of your cataract returning. As such, you will never need to have Cataract Surgery in the same eye, twice. Instead, a simple laser procedure is likely all that will be needed to have you seeing clearly once more.

If you have any questions or concerns about Cataract Surgery, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators today. If you are considering Cataract Surgery at London Vision Clinic, Book a Consultation today.