If you’ve had cataract surgery and noticed that your vision became blurry or dim several weeks, months or even years afterwards, similar to what you experienced with the original cataract, you’re probably wondering if your cataract grew back. Fortunately, cataracts cannot grow back.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which is removed during cataract surgery and replaced with an artificial lens. Artificial lenses do not form cataracts. So what could be causing blurry vision after cataract surgery? While only your eye doctor can say for sure, one cause of blurry vision post cataract surgery is something known as a “secondary cataract.”
What is a “secondary cataract”?
Although cataracts can’t grow back, a small number of patients may experience blurry vision some time after cataract surgery. Fortunately, this is not the recurrence of a cataract and it is a condition that is easily treated. The clinical name is posterior capsular opacification (PCO), but it is more commonly known as a “secondary cataract” or an “after cataract.”
So what exactly is a “secondary cataract”? Answering the question requires a short look at the anatomy of the eye.
There is a small sac, or membrane called the lens capsule that once enclosed your natural lens and held it in place. It’s a clear membrane. During cataract surgery, a large part of the capsule, located in front of the eye’s lens, gets removed. This is so the surgeon can access the cloudy lens – the cataract – and remove it. But there is another part of the membrane located behind the eye’s lens that does not get removed. In a small number of people, this part of the lens capsule becomes cloudy after cataract surgery and may cause vision to appear blurry. It might feel like the cataract returned, but that is not the case.
What are the symptoms of a “secondary cataract”?
“Secondary cataract” symptoms may be similar to those of the primary cataract. Some patients report blurry or dull vision. Others report sensitivity to lights, particularly at night, reduced visual acuity (near and far vision) and even difficulty perceiving colors.
How is a “secondary cataract” treated?
Fortunately, a “secondary cataract” is easily treated with a simple laser procedure. Commonly it is performed in the doctor’s office, only takes a few minutes and typically does not need to be repeated.
Using a laser beam, a doctor will make a small opening in the clouded capsule to allow light through. It’s a simple procedure that usually takes less than five minutes to perform, although you may spend some time in the doctor’s office afterwards to be sure there are no negative effects such as increased eye pressure. Most patients experience improved vision immediately, while some experience gradual improvement over several days. Unlike cataract surgery, you will likely be able to return to everyday activities immediately after the procedure.
Can “secondary cataracts” be prevented?
There are some conditions that increase the risk of “secondary cataracts.” Younger people, people with diabetes, people with certain eye conditions such as uveitis (inflammation in the middle part of the eye) and retinitis pigmentosa (a breakdown of cells in the retina) are at higher risk. “Secondary cataracts” have also been linked to steroid use. People whose cataract was caused by trauma to the eye may also be at higher risk.1
While there is currently no known way to prevent a “secondary cataract,” new technology in intraocular lens (IOL) design may reduce risk. For example, “square-edged” IOLs have been found to reduce the risk of developing a “secondary cataract,” although they do not fully prevent one.2
The IC-8 lens advantage
If you’ve been diagnosed with a cataract and are considering cataract surgery, be sure to discuss replacement lens options with your doctor. Learn more about the IC-8 lens. The IC-8 lens offers many advantages over traditional (monofocal) and multifocal IOLs. It provides a natural range of vision from near to far, including mid-range vision needed to read a computer screen. With the IC-8 lens, one may achieve continuous and seamless vision at all distances.