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The majority of cataract surgeries performed in the U.S. are done with a local anesthetic and IV sedation.

The local anesthesia may be accomplished in one of two ways: either an injection of anesthetic around the eye or anesthetic eye drops placed on the eye, often combined with an injection of a small amount of anesthetic into the front of the eye at the very beginning of surgery.

The injection of anesthetic around the eye generally produces a deeper anesthesia for the surgery than the topical method but it also comes with increased risk. There is a very small chance of potentially serious bleeding behind the eye and a rare chance of inadvertent penetration of the back of the eye with the injection needle.

The topical anesthesia has lower risk but does not provide quite as deep of an anesthesia, although the overwhelming majority of people having cataract surgery with a topical anesthetic do not experience any significant pain during the procedure. 

The other difference between the two anesthesias is that with topical anesthesia you maintain your ability to move your eye around whereas with injection anesthesia the eye muscles are temporarily paralyzed so your eye doesn’t move during the surgery.  When you have topical anesthesia it is important for you to try to stare straight ahead at the light in the microscope above you. Most people accomplish this quite easily.

Along with the anesthetic to the eye, in most cataract surgeries an anesthetist will also give you some mild sedative medication through an IV. This relaxes you but does not put you “out,” although some people do fall asleep during the procedure from the effects of the sedation.

Many people who have cataract surgery with IV sedation don’t remember some of the surgery because of the amnesiac effect that occurs from the sedative. This often doesn’t happen when you return for surgery on your second eye. 

Despite often getting the exact same dose of sedative on the second surgery you have significant less amnesia the second time. This is caused by a quick buildup in tolerance to the medication. 

When they have their second surgeries, many patients feel that the surgery was significantly different than the first time even though it was done exactly the same. The reason is just that you remember more the second time.

On rare occasions people need to have general anesthesia to have their cataracts removed. Today, that is mostly done for people who are incapable of cooperating and staying still for the surgery. For everyone who can cooperate it is generally not worth the risks, which include death, to put people to sleep for a surgery that is easily done under a local anesthetic.

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

This blog provides general information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician. The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ.

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A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

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Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

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My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.