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How is cataract surgery performed?

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Quick Answer

A doctor performing cataract surgery uses an ultrasound probe to break up the lens to take out the fragments or makes an incision in the eye to remove the clouded lens, according to Mayo Clinic. A clear, artificial lens is then placed in the eye's lens capsule.

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The surgeon begins by placing eye drops in the patient's eye to dilate the pupil. He applies a local anesthetic and may use a mild sedative to calm the patient, explains Mayo Clinic. The surgeon inserts a needle-thin probe through a small incision in the cornea to transmit destructive ultrasound waves through the lens in a process known as phacoemulsification. He suctions out the lens fragments, leaving the lens capsule near the very back of the lens intact. A less common alternative known as extracapsular cataract extraction involves making a larger incision to remove the lens; it normally requires stitches.

The surgeon finishes the procedure by implanting an intraocular lens made of acrylic, plastic or silicone that may be rigid or flexible, notes Mayo Clinic. The patient cannot see or feel the implant, which may carry special features such as UV ray protection or bifocal vision. Patients can expect vision to begin improving several days after the surgery, and common side effects include mild discomfort and itching.

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