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Can you have cataract surgery after laser eye surgery?

22 May 2020

Expert consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Shafiq Rehman discusses the possibility of having cataract treatment for those who have already had laser eye surgery.

In plain terms – Yes you can!

However as is often the case, there is a lot more to this question than first meets the eye (no pun intended!)

First a quick word about laser eye surgery.  This is without doubt one of the most successful and effective surgery ever to have been developed. Literally tens of millions of people all over the world have enjoyed the benefits of laser vision correction treatments.

Of course many people have this treatment whilst they are in their 20’s or 30’s and sadly time stands still for no-one, and over the course of the next two or four decades of life – some people will naturally develop cataract.

A cataract is clouding of the natural human lens. It can arise for many different reasons, but the single biggest risk factor is age. Short sighted are also thought to be a touch more likely to develop cataract at an earlier age than people who were never short sighted in the first place.  In medical jargon – myopia – is an independent risk factor for development of early onset cataract.

It’s also good to note that there is no evidence that having had laser vision correction accelerates this natural risk for cataract development.

Ok, so let’s say you are now in your 50’s or beyond and get a pesky cataract which is affecting your quality of vision – this might cause blurring, colour perception changes, dazzle from car headlights or from bright sunlight. Cataracts can even cause a rapid change in your eye prescription meaning you may have had to have your glasses changed more frequently than your comfortable with. In some people cataract can make it difficult or impossible to carry out every day activities such as driving or watching TV.

If you’re in this position I want to say one thing loud and clear first: “DON’T WORRY”.

Luckily cataract surgery is by common consent also one of the safest and most effective surgical procedures known to humankind!

Having had previous laser vision correction does not add any additional ‘technical’ challenge to the surgery – in fact if you forget to tell the surgeon about your previous laser surgery adventures, the surgeon may not even be able to tell that you have had this treatment before.

Which brings me onto the second most important point thing I want to say is

“DO TELL YOUR SURGEON THAT YOU HAVE HAD PREVIOUS LASER VISION CORRECTIVE SURGERY.”   

 This is extremely important because the methods for working out the correct power of the intraocular lens implant for your requirements will be affected by your previous laser corrective surgery.

We use sophisticated algorithms to try and optimise the calculation of the lens implant power, to in effect ‘take into account’ the fact that you had previous laser eye surgery. This process is quite complex and beyond the scope of this blog but suffice it to say – “It’s really important for us to know that you had laser eye surgery before”.  If we don’t get this information then it’s possible to end up with an optical prescription that simply was not desired by the patient or by the surgeon.

At Optegra all our surgeons are comfortable with handling the sophisticated approaches that help us improve the refractive accuracy in our cataract and refractive lens exchange procedures.  One additional piece of information that is often very helpful for us is to know whether you were short sighted (myopic) or long sighted (hyperopic) prior to your laser surgery. In fact, it is even more helpful to dig out a copy of your eye prescription from before and just after your laser vision correction procedure. Many optometrists, especially the national chains,  will likely have your old prescription details on file and all it takes is an e-mail or a call to your previous optician’s store.

If you can’t get hold of your old optical prescriptions, don’t fret, because more often than not experienced cataract and refractive surgeons can examine your scans and figure out what sort of treatment you had and work their maths wizardry – but – just one last time you can help us with this by telling us that you have had laser vision correction.

More questions? Why not book a free consultation with one of our vision correction experts.

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