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3 Steps for Cataract Patients with Dry Eye

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when the eyes’ natural tears are not able to provide adequate lubrication. In some people, the eyes don’t produce enough tears and for others, the eyes don’t produce the right kind of tears – what they produce is of poor quality. While dry eye can happen at any age, it tends to affect people more as they get older.

The symptoms of dry eye include burning or itchy eyes, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and even watery eyes. Dry eye symptoms can range from mild to severe and some people report having no symptoms at all.

In most cases, dry eye can be successfully managed; however, when it comes to cataract surgery, if left untreated, dry eye can lead to suboptimal results and increased recovery time. Here are 3 steps cataract surgeons may take for patients with dry eye.

 1. Selecting an intraocular lens for patients with dry eye

Cataract surgery involves replacing the eye’s natural lens (clouded by a cataract) with an artificial lens known as an intraocular lens, or IOL. There are different types of IOLs that correct vision at various distances. An eye doctor will take careful measurements to help select an IOL for the best possible results. Dry eye can make those measurements less accurate, which could make selecting the right power of IOL challenging. This is why, for cataract patients, most eye doctors will routinely test for dry eye, even if there are no symptoms present. Fortunately, if dry eye is properly diagnosed pre-operatively, it can usually be treated successfully.

 2. Treating dry eye before cataract surgery

If a doctor determines a cataract patient has dry eye, either through patient history, a routine eye exam or other tests, they will usually recommend treatment for dry eye prior to cataract surgery. Most commonly, dry eye is treated with artificial tears or other topical medications, including steroids. The goal is to improve the surface of the eye before determining the best IOL for the patient. Most patients only require one to two weeks of treatment for dry eye in advance of surgery.

 3. Recovering from cataract surgery with dry eye

Cataract surgery can exacerbate pre-existing dry eye, which can affect healing time and comfort level. Visual recovery happens faster when the surface of the cornea is smooth and lubricated, as opposed to dry. This is why it’s important to follow post-operative instructions, particularly as they relate to eye drops and/or other medications.

If dry eye is undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to unsatisfactory outcomes from cataract surgery. It’s important to discuss possible dry eye symptoms with your doctor. The good news is that with proper treatment prior to surgery, most people experience positive results.


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