In honor of National Cataract Awarenss Month: A cataract forms when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. The lens is
responsible for focusing light onto the retina. The reason for cloudiness could be due to protein changes in the lens. With nuclear cataracts, the most common kind of cataract, the inside of the lens is affected. In cortical cataracts, the outside of the lens is affected.
Three (3) million Americans have cataract surgery each year. The Federal government spending $3.4 billion through Medicare to treat cataracts. 1.)Recent estimates indicate that approximately 15% of the US population older than age 65 has dry eye.2 “If you assume that two million cataract patients are older than 65, and 15% have dry eye, then approximately 300,000 of the patients who undergo cataract surgery each year will suffer from dry eye.”
Worldwide, this represents this happens to 750,000 people. This is an awesome number.
Causes of dry eyes due to Cataract surgery
Since majority of the cataracts occur in people who are over 65, they are also the group that is most likely to have dry eyes due to:
- Aging. – Dry eye is a common condition for people over 50.
- Trauma to the cornea during surgery – creating an uneven surface which causes friction when blinking. Resulting in inflammation and dry eyes.
There are 3 important tests to be done to determine if the patient has dry eyes before surgery.
- Rose Bengal Staining,
- Schirmer’s Test ( or Zone Quick) to measure tear volume,
- Tear Breakup Test to measure tear viscosity.
It would be well advised that patients ask for these tests to be done by their eye doctors before making a decision to have cataract surgery.
If dry eyes are detected before surgery, the recommendation is to treat dry eyes and get the cornea into the best condition it can be to minimize dry eye outcome after surgery.
Post Operative Care:
After cataract surgery the signs and symptoms of ocular surface disease typically get worse. Following surgery, patients are using a number of topical drops, usually a steroid, antibiotic and an NSAID. Prolonged use of postoperative medications may be one of the contributing factors of the patient’s dry eye symptoms. In patients with OSD, it is best to stop or taper medications when they are no longer needed.