The natural lens of the eye has a cellophane-like outer lining called the capsule. During cataract surgery the back membrane of the natural lens (posterior capsule) is left in place to support the artificial lens implant. The posterior capsule is normally clear, however, 3 out of 4 people who have cataract surgery will eventually develop a wrinkling or cloudiness of this membrane.
The wrinkling or cloudiness which can develop months or years later is a result of scarring (a normal healing response) and can interfere with vision in ways similar to the original cataract. If the clouding of the posterior capsule interferes with your vision, your ophthalmologist may suggest opening the capsule to restore normal sight.
This is done with a procedure called YAG laser capsulotomy, whereby your doctor uses a laser beam to make a tiny hole in the posterior membrane to let light pass through and restore clear vision. Although the laser procedure requires close and precise focusing by the ophthalmologist, for the patient the technique is a painless, outpatient procedure and is never part of the original cataract operation.
There is a common misconception that cataracts are removed by a laser. This stems from the fact that 3 out of 4 people who have cataract surgery eventually need YAG laser surgery to remove the cloudy membrane which is often referred to as a secondary cataract.
A YAG laser capsulotomy is a surgical procedure. However, the risks of a serious complication resulting from this procedure are about 1/100th of the risks associated with a regular cataract operation. The most serious risk is retinal detachment, which at its onset, appears like a black curtain coming over the eye affecting the side vision from any direction. The occurrence of retinal detachment may also be associated with the appearance of flashing lights. If you experience either of these symptoms you should contact us immediately.