Do Cataracts Come Back? — Dr. Zack Burkhart

Many patients ask, “After you remove my cataracts, will they come back?”

The short answer is no, but a patient’s vision can get cloudy again, even after perfect cataract surgery.  Here’s the explanation, courtesy of Dr. Zack Burkhart…

At the time of cataract surgery, the surgeon removes the patient’s cloudy lens from the lens capsule. This clear, thin-walled “bag” is preserved as the natural lens is removed so that the surgeon can place the new, artificial lens inside.

In a considerable fraction of patients who have had cataract surgery, the lens capsule starts to become cloudy due to the growth of cells called lens epithelial cells on the inside surface of the capsule. As these cells multiply and spread across the inner surface of the lens capsule, it begins to lose its clarity, acquiring a grayish, irregular haze. Ophthalmologists refer to this haziness of the lens capsule as “posterior capsular opacity” or “PCO.”

As this process takes place, the patient begins to notice gradual blurring of the vision in the involved eye, often accompanied by glare, starbursts, and halos around lights at night. These symptoms are often described as similar to the original cataract symptoms. Fortunately, PCO is a fairly simple problem to solve, thanks to the amazing capability of the YAG laser.

This laser, which is available to Focal Point doctors at all locations, can be focused on the posterior capsule and used to remove the hazy portion in a matter of seconds, without affecting any other part of the eye. The procedure is done quickly and easily in the office, causes no pain for the patient, and typically results in marked vision improvement within a few hours. Patients are free to return to normal activity after the procedure, and post-procedure medications are usually not needed. Once the patient has had the opacity removed with the YAG laser, it does not recur.