While it is true that for most people cataract surgery is a “piece of cake,” for surgery to go well it helps to have an otherwise healthy eye. If someone has any eye disease in addition to the cataract this will increase the risk that the final vision will be limited after surgery.
Unfortunately, the general experience of most people who have had cataract surgery does not apply when there is a history of diabetic retinopathy. People with otherwise healthy eyes might note that their vision was better before they even left the operating room. However, most of these people do not have diabetic retinopathy.
A history of diabetic retinopathy increases the risk of surgery. Eyes with a history of retinopathy are at higher risk of macular edema (swelling of the retina), and infection. Treating these conditions can be challenging.
Additionally, decreased night vision is often a result of the laser treatment for proliferative retinopathy (that’s still better than the alternative of no treatment – loss of central and overall vision). Cataract surgery may help by allowing more light into the eye, but it will not completely improve it – there will still be some permanent limitation of night vision.
The most important thing someone with Diabetes can do to limit these additional risks of cataract surgery is to maintain good control of the blood sugar.
© 2009 David Richardson, MD