Secondary Cataracts

What Is A Posterior Capsule Opacity (Secondary Cataract)?

Cataract surgery involves removing the natural lens from the eye. This lens, which is clear in young people, becomes cloudy due to the normal aging process, and is then referred to as a cataract. The lens is surrounded by a clear membrane, called a capsule. During cataract surgery the front part of this capsule is removed to allow removal of the lens. The remainder of the capsule is left in place and supports the intraocular lens (IOL), which is the small clear artificial lens that replaces the cataract. In all eyes with IOLs, cells gradually form on this capsule. In some patients, enough cells collect there that vision becomes blurry, almost making it seem as though the cataract has returned. This may happen weeks or many years after cataract surgery and is called a “posterior capsule opacification” or a Secondary Cataract.

How Are Secondary Cataracts Treated?

A special type of laser, called a YAG laser, is used to make a central opening in the cloudy posterior capsule. Lasers are high-tech devices that produce very high-energy light beams. This laser energy can be delivered to structures inside the eye with great precision and without having to make an incision using a scalpel. This procedure is called “posterior capsulotomy”. It is an outpatient procedure that’s carried out after dilation of the pupil and administration of an anesthetic eye drop. A special contact lens is used to focus the laser beam and prevent blinking. The procedure is painless and takes a minute or two. No sedation is required, and patients leave the surgery center and resume their normal activities shortly after the procedure is completed. Improvement in vision is usually noticeable later the same day.

Risks and Prognosis

YAG laser capsulotomy is highly effective and has few risks. As with any surgery in the eye, there is a very low risk of developing a retinal tear, which can be treated. Transient elevation in eye pressure can also occur, so at the time of the laser treatment, all patients are treated with eye drops that prevent this. Once a posterior capsulotomy has been done, the cells don’t grow back, so with rare exceptions, the procedure doesn’t ever have to be repeated.

Cataract Specialists

Jason N. Edmonds, M.D.
Peter S. Foote, M.D.
Nicholas J. Frame, M.D.
Mackenzie M. Sward, M.D.

To schedule an appointment for a cataract evaluation at our BaysideBrookfieldFranklin, or Milwaukee East Side location, please call 414-271-2020. Our Milwaukee Eye Care doctors will be with you every step of the way and help you make the most informed decision.

Back to Top