Sometimes following cataract surgery, a condition frequently referred to as “after-cataract” can occur which causes vision to become cloudy. The cloudiness is actually due to changes in the back portion of the lens capsule, the thin clear membrane which holds the natural lens (and implanted lens) in place. The capsule completely surrounds the lens and separates it from the thick fluid in the back of the eye, called the vitreous, and the thinner fluid in the front of the eye, called the aqueous. The reasons for the cloudiness in the posterior capsule (back portion) are unknown. Posterior capsular opacification affects up to 40% to 50% of people within 2 years of having cataract surgery. The cloudiness may develop gradually over several months or years.
This condition is also called secondary membrane or “secondary cataracts”. In some people, it can become very dense and cause as much vision loss as the original cataract. Treatment for secondary cataracts typically consists of a laser treatment called YAG capsulotomy. Prior to the procedure, your eye is numbed with drops and your pupil is dilated. During the procedure, a controlled beam of laser energy in tiny, rapid bursts is guided by your surgeon to make a small opening in the posterior capsule to allow light to once again enter freely into the back of the eye. The remainder of the lens capsule is left intact.
The laser treatment is quick and painless and is done right in the office. Typically, vision will be fully restored soon after the YAG laser treatment. The YAG laser procedure is very safe, but as with all surgical procedures, it does carry some risks that will be discussed by your surgeon.