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Secondary Cataracts

Q: I’ve heard of something called “secondary cataracts.” Is it true that cataracts can return after cataract surgery? Will I need to have cataract surgery a second time?

By: Allen W. Zieker, M.D.
Robert B. Feldman, M.D.
Cataract Surgeons at Ophthalmic Consultants of the Capital Region

A: Cataracts are actually unable to grow back after surgery. During cataract surgery, the clouded part of the natural lens of the eye is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). Because the cloudy portion of the natural lens of the eye—which is the actual cataract—has been removed, it is impossible for a cataract to return.

However, some patients eventually experience hazy or cloudy vision even after successful cataract surgery due to a cloudy, grayish film growing on the lens capsule membrane that is located behind the lens implant. This membrane is the transparent outer skin of the cataract and is what holds the IOL in place. This condition is called posterior capsular opacification (PCO) but is commonly referred to as “secondary cataracts” because of similar symptoms with cataracts, including hazy/blurry vision, light sensitivity, glare, halos, or difficulty reading. The cataract does not come back and opacification is not scar tissue.

PCO is the most common problem patients may experience after cataract surgery. PCO occurs in approximately 35% of patients nationally, but only about 19% of Dr. Allen W. Zieker’s experience PCO due to the special techniques he uses to decrease the opacification. If PCO does occur, it usually comes about within one to six years after cataract surgery.

Fortunately, treatment for PCO is simple and can be corrected in an easy 5-minute outpatient procedure called posterior capsulotomy. Using a laser, the procedure involves creating a small opening in the center of the lens cloudy capsule, allowing light to properly enter the eye and in turn restoring clear vision. A posterior capsulotomy is safe and very precise, improving cloudy vision caused by PCO without affecting any other parts of the eye.

The procedure involves no postoperative restrictions or downtime for most people like cataract surgery does, and no drops are required. The majority of patients are able to resume their normal routine almost immediately and notice visual improvement the same day as the procedure.

If you are considering cataract surgery, Ophthalmic Consultants of the Capital Region encourages you to schedule a cataract surgery consultation with one of our board-certified cataract surgeons.

We have 5 eye care offices in the area:

Albany (518) 438-5273
Clifton Park (518) 383-8589
Schenectady (518) 370-0066
Schodack (518) 477-2391
Troy (518) 274-3123