What is a Secondary Cataract?

Eventually, everyone will require cataract surgery to restore their vision and reduce the unwanted symptoms of cataracts. However, what about secondary cataracts? Can cataracts grow back after surgery? 

Keep reading to learn what a secondary cataract is!

A Misleading Term

The term secondary cataract is a misnomer, a somewhat inaccurate description. A secondary cataract is, in fact, not a cataract.

When you have cataract surgery, your cataract surgeon removes the cloudy natural lens of your eye. The lens is located behind the pupil in a capsule, which is a bag-like structure that holds the lens in place. 

During cataract surgery, the natural lens, which has become cloudy with age, is removed using ultrasound and suction performed by tiny precision surgical instruments. A new artificial lens, an intraocular lens, or IOL, is put in its place.

After cataract surgery, your vision will be restored with clarity and crispness. 

A Cloudy Capsule, not a Cataract

That bag-like structure, the capsule, holds the IOL in place. When you have a secondary cataract, the new lens is not the problem. 

Once you have cataract surgery, you cannot develop a cataract again. What can happen is that the capsule itself can become cloudy due to scar tissue formation. 

The symptoms of that cloudiness will mimic the original cataract. You may experience blurriness, glare, or halos around lights. 

Many people call this condition a secondary cataract because the symptoms are similar. However, the technical term for this condition is posterior capsule opacification, or PCO.

Because you have much sharper vision with your IOL, any changes to that capsule will be noticeable. That’s why PCO happens after cataract surgery. 

This happens to about one-third of patients in the weeks, months, or years following cataract surgery.

Good, Better, Best

Once the old lens is gone, the IOL cannot change or get cloudy as a natural lens does. After cataract surgery, you’re seeing so well now that you notice the cloudiness of this capsule. 

The best news is that you don’t need to have a second round of surgery in the operating room. Instead, you’ll be scheduled for a simple laser procedure that’s quick and easy.

Treatment by Laser

To treat PCO or a secondary cataract, your eye doctor uses a YAG laser in a procedure known as a YAG capsulotomy. Your eye doctor will create a small opening in the cloudy lens capsule so that light passes through and clear vision is restored.

The YAG capsulotomy can be done as an office procedure and only takes five minutes to perform. 

What to Expect

First, your eye doctors will give you drops to numb your eyes and perhaps additional drops to dilate your pupil. Your eye doctor will focus the laser on the back of the cloudy capsule, create a small opening, and remove the scar tissue.

You should plan on having someone drive you home, but you should be able to see clearly within twenty-four hours and can resume normal activities as directed by your eye doctor. You may need to continue with eye drops for a week following the procedure to ensure healing and reduce any risk of infection. 

A Sight-Restoring Procedure

Worries about a secondary cataract should not prevent you from choosing sight-restoring cataract surgery. Both cataract surgery and secondary cataracts or posterior capsule opacification have minimal risks, and the results are clearly visible: a brighter look on life.

Are you interested in learning more about secondary cataracts? Schedule an appointment at Vermont Eye Laser in Burlington, VT, today!

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