Do Cataracts Come Back?

The short answer is “no”.

You may have heard someone having a secondary cataract after cataract surgery, but that is a misnomer. Cataract surgery entails removing all of the cloudy lens material out of the clear lens capsule. An intraocular lens implant (IOL) is placed inside the remaining lens capsule. Once the cloudy lens material is removed, the material is gone forever.

However, in a significant minority of patients after cataract surgery, the lens capsule can become cloudy and obstructs the vision days, months, or more typically, years after surgery. A patient with this condition will experience symptoms similar to a cataract: cloudiness, light glares, or lack of clarity. On examination, we can measure a decline in the visual acuity and an increase in glare disability. A full eye examination, which requires dilating the pupil, will determine that all other eye structures have not changed except the remaining lens capsule which is holding the IOL in place. The IOL will appear in a good position and clear. However, the previously clear lens capsule is now more opaque and reduces the view quality of the retina behind the capsule. The official diagnosis for this condition is posterior capsule opacity.

Your eye doctor will recommend a YAG (Yitrium Aluminum Garnite) laser capsulotomy which happens to be the most common laser procedure performed on the human body. This procedure, which is performed by an ophthalmologist, is safe and comfortable. It will permanently remove the center portion of the capsule which is obstructing the vision without harming the IOL. Typically, vision improves within 24 hours after completion of the procedure and remains clear indefinitely.

If you previously had cataract surgery and are noticing your vision is not quite as clear as it was after surgery, consult your eye doctor to see if this correctable condition is affecting your vision.

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