As primary-care optometrists, we are the gatekeepers for baby boomers inquiring about cataract surgery. Today’s patients have treatment options available not only to address their lifestyle complaints but to provide them with better vision and possibly reduced dependence on glasses or contact lenses.
This generation of active seniors are eager to embrace their intraocular lens (IOL) options. They include both traditional cataract surgery and femtosecond laser surgery.
Many optometrists assume that patients already know what cataracts are. I find most patients think cataracts are a “film over the eye.” It is important for patients to understand cataracts so they can better realize why their vision is changing, and the cause of the glare at night when they drive, read, or watch television. Together, we pinpoint their lifestyle complaints—once the cataract is removed, we see if the complaints have been resolved.
The analogy of a camera works very well to explain to patients the basic optics of light entering a normal eye as well as diffraction when light passes through a cataract. I explain that the natural lens in our eye focuses light onto the retina, and over time this lens gets cloudy and loses its ability to change focus. This leads to presbyopia and eventually cataracts. Online resources can demonstrate this very well.
Previously from Dr. Fluder: Identifying common macular conditions with OCT
Your patients will have a flood of questions about cataract surgery. They will ask if it will be performed at a hospital or an outpatient facility, how long the procedure takes, and which surgeon will perform the procedure.
I recommend contacting your comanaging surgeons to obtain their protocols so you can better prepare your patients’ expectations. Patients will feel much more comfortable and have a sense of continuity of care if what you say is reiterated at the surgeon’s office.
I explain that we operate on only one eye at a time. If patients require IOLs in both eyes, the surgeries are scheduled one to two weeks apart. Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, and the patient will be in the surgery center for approximately two hours, with the procedure taking only 15 to 20 minutes.