Posterior Capsule Opacification: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Posterior Capsule Opacification

Some cataract patients who’ve had an intraocular lens (IOL) implanted during cataract surgery may experience a phenomenon known as posterior capsule opacification (PCO). PCO has similar cloudy vision symptoms as cataracts, making it worrisome for those who’ve recently had surgery. PCO is often referred to as secondary cataracts because the symptoms are similar. However, the posterior capsule is not a cataract. 

Understandably, that information is probably confusing. Rest assured, we’ll provide answers that should help clear things up. 

What is Posterior Capsule Opacification (PCO)?

Following cataract surgery, some patients will develop posterior capsule opacification (PCO). It’s a  clouding of the posterior lens capsule—a thin membrane around your eye’s natural lens— where an IOL is implanted. The clouding effect mimics a cataract’s symptom, making it a cause for concern for those who’ve recently had surgery. 

Percentage of People That Get PCO After Cataract Surgery

Posterior capsule opacification is common after cataract surgery. About one in five patients will develop PCO within a year of having cataract surgery. After five years, around one-third of patients will experience PCO. 

How is PCO Different From Cataracts?

One of the most common concerns among cataract patients is whether a cataract can come back after surgery. Because the implanted IOL is made of synthetic materials, a cataract cannot come back. However, PCO can affect your vision in a fairly similar way. This leaves room for patients affected by PCO to wonder if their cataracts came back. 

Read More: When is it Time For Cataract Surgery?

Can Posterior Capsule Opacification Disappear on Its Own?

Similar to cataracts, posterior capsule opacification will not disappear on its own. The lens capsule behind the IOL may become cloudy over time, affecting your vision even more.  Posterior capsule opacification can negate the clear vision you experienced following cataract surgery. That’s why it’s recommended you see your cataract surgeon discuss your symptoms as soon as you notice them. Your surgeon may recommend YAG laser capsulotomy, a quick procedure that can help restore your vision. 

What Causes PCO?

During cataract surgery, the surgeon will remove your eye’s natural clouded lens, and replace it with an IOL. Some of the tissue that covers the lens—called the capsule—is left to hold the IOL in place. Films and tissue can form in the capsule behind the IOL, impacting your visual clarity. Over weeks, months, or even years, the capsule can become cloudy, leading to blurred vision. 

What Are the Symptoms of PCO?

You’ll hear PCO sometimes referred to as secondary cataracts because the symptoms are so similar. Both of these conditions make it difficult for light to pass through to the retina. If you’re experiencing any of these PCO symptoms

  • Blurry vision
  • Bright lights cause glare and halos
  • Trouble seeing in low-light conditions
  • Difficulty driving at night

YAG laser surgery procedure

What Is the Treatment for PCO?

Are PCO symptoms affecting your lifestyle? Then it’s time to get information about PCO treatment. Your surgeon might recommend YAG capsulotomy laser treatment. This procedure uses a laser beam to eliminate the cloudy tissue—without making an incision. 

The procedure is quick and comfortable, and it has helped countless patients recover their clear vision. It’s also covered by medical insurance. Don’t put off getting treatment for posterior capsule opacification. 

Does Posterior Capsule Opacification Get Worse Over Time?

Yes, your posterior capsule opacification symptoms can get worse over time. As the lens capsule gets cloudier, you’ll experience diminished vision, similar to the way it was when a cataract was present. If you’ve recently had cataract surgery and started noticing vision problems, contact your eye doctor about treatment. They’ll help determine what treatment is right for you. 

Read More: What Can Cause Loss of Eyesight?

Cleveland’s Most Trusted Ophthalmologists

Curious if PCO treatment is right for you? Once you’ve confirmed that posterior capsule opacification is affecting your vision, you should schedule a free consultation with the Clear Choice team. You may have some reservations about getting another procedure done after cataract surgery. But consider this, YAG laser capsulotomy is a  walk-in/walk-out procedure that takes about five minutes to complete. Once you’re finished you’ll be able to drive home—no need to arrange rides. Speak with our professionals during your free consultation

Sources Cited

Raj, S. M., Vasavada, A. R., Johar, S. R. K., Vasavada, V. A., & Vasavada, V. A. (2007, December 3). Post-operative capsular opacification: A Review. International journal of biomedical science : IJBS. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614664/

Koviak, K. (2015, March). Posterior capsule opacification. Michigan Medicine. https://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/Ophthalmology/Cornea/PosteriorCapusleOpacification.pdf

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