Can Cataracts Come Back After Having Cataract Surgery?

Do you have cataracts? Are you ready to have cataract surgery but wondering if it’s a permanent procedure? 

Cataracts are extremely common. Chances are, you’ll develop them at some point in your life. 

Your chances of developing them increase as you get older. Once you turn 40, your risk starts rising. 

Fortunately, cataracts are treatable by undergoing cataract surgery. But is cataract surgery a permanent procedure? Can your cataracts come back after you have them removed?

But if you have cataract surgery, can your cataracts come back? You may have heard from friends or relatives who’ve had cataract surgery that they continue experiencing symptoms after the procedure. 

Although you can develop visual issues after cataract surgery, they aren’t because you have cataracts that grow back. Cataracts cannot grow back, but these issues with your vision are easy to fix. 

Keep reading to learn more about cataracts and what to do if you experience issues after correcting your vision with cataract surgery. 

Cataracts and Cataract Surgery

What is a cataract? A cataract forms inside the natural lens of your eye. The natural lens should be clear, but it becomes cloudy when you have cataracts. 

The natural lens becomes cloudier and more challenging to see through as cataracts continue developing and growing. Cataracts can take years to develop, and many people don’t notice them at first. 

But the cloudier your lens becomes, the harder it becomes to see. Cataracts can cause blurry vision, poor night vision, light sensitivity, glare, and halos.

If cataracts start causing so many problems with your vision and ability to see that they affect your quality of life, most cataract surgeons will recommend cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is the only effective method of treating cataracts. 

The procedure removes cataracts and the natural lens to help you regain the ability to see clearly. After removing the natural lens, it’s replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). But is it possible for a cataract to form on your IOL? It is not. 

Intraocular Lenses

IOLs, unlike your natural lens, don’t become cloudy over time. Unlike your natural lens, an IOL can’t form a cataract on it. 

It’s unclear why cataracts develop and cause your natural lens to become less transparent. What’s known is that most cataracts develop to aging and chemical changes in the body affecting the cells that make up the lens. 

Intraocular lenses do not undergo the same changes because they are made of synthetic material. That means you won’t have to worry about your IOL becoming cloudy or developing a cataract. 

However, some patients experience “secondary cataracts” after cataract surgery, which aren’t cataracts at all.  

Secondary Cataracts

Experiencing cataract-like symptoms after cataract surgery is often attributed to a phenomenon called “secondary cataracts.” The name is misleading and a bit of a misnomer, as secondary cataracts aren’t actual cataracts. If they aren’t cataracts, then what are they?

When you have cataract surgery, the procedure involves breaking the natural lens into smaller pieces and removing them from the lens capsule. The lens capsule is a membrane-like pouch that holds your lens in place inside your eye. 

Your New England Eye Center cataract surgeon will place your IOL inside the lens capsule. The incision in this capsule allows access during surgery and heals independently without stitches or sutures. 

However, scar tissue can sometimes build up around where the incision heals. If there’s scar tissue, this causes post-capsular opacification, or, as it’s often falsely labeled, a secondary cataract. 

But post-capsular opacification can cause cataract-like symptoms. Patients with post-capsular opacification may experience all the same symptoms they had when they had cataracts, although usually to a more mild degree. 

It can be distressing for these patients to experience these symptoms after removing their cataracts. You may start wondering if you’ve developed cataracts again, even after having them removed. 

The good news? You can treat post-capsular opacification by undergoing a simple procedure and finally start seeing more clearly! 

YAG Capsulotomy 

If you have post-capsular opacification, your eye doctor at New England Eye Center can usually treat it at their office in only a few minutes with a quick procedure. 

You’ll undergo a YAG capsulotomy. A YAG capsulotomy uses a specialized kind of laser called a YAG laser. 

After numbing your eyes with eye drops and dilating your pupils, your ophthalmologist will point the laser through your enlarged pupil to the back of your eye, harmlessly creating an opening in the lens capsule. 

Creating an opening in the lens capsule allows light to pass through the capsule to your IOL, enabling you to see clearly again. Although cataract surgery is not invasive, a YAG capsulotomy is even less invasive than cataract surgery and requires very little recovery time. 

You’ll still need to find a friend or family member to drive you home after the procedure, as your vision may not be stable due to the numbing eye drops. You may also need prescription eye drops to prevent inflammation and infection for a week following the procedure. 

These are usually the same eye drops you used while recovering from cataract surgery, meaning you should already know how to take them.

Within 24 hours of your YAG capsulotomy, you should feel completely normal and will be able to see clearly again. Experiencing cataract-like symptoms after cataract surgery is nothing to worry about. Take the first step by talking to your ophthalmologist about a YAG capsulotomy.

Are you worried about secondary cataracts? Schedule an appointment at New England Eye Center in Boston, MA, to learn more and regain your ability to see clearly! Aren’t you ready to achieve your clear vision and put visual impairment behind you?

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