Cataract Surgery

March 22, 2017

Cataract Surgery

What is cataract surgery?

When light passes into your eye, it goes through the lens. This is a clear tissue that focuses light on the lining inside the eye, allowing you to see. Sometimes the lens becomes cloudy. This reduces your vision. This is called a cataract, and it’s most common in older people. Besides age, other causes include injuries, certain medicines, and some kinds of radiation.

Why might I need cataract surgery?

Healthcare providers will remove a cataract if it keeps you from doing daily activities like reading, watching TV, or driving. During the procedure, the healthcare provider takes out the damaged lens and replaces it with an artificial one. Some other steps can help treat symptoms right after a cataract develops. These include eyeglasses and using brighter lights in your home. As a result, most people don’t have to have cataracts removed right away.

What are the risks for cataract surgery?

As with other surgeries, cataract surgery brings some risk for bleeding or infection. Other possible risks include:

  • Retinal detachment. This is when the retina (the tissue lining the inside of the eyeball) comes loose
  • Swelling of the tissues in the eye
  • Vision that’s not as sharp as you would like
Sometimes the healthcare provider isn’t able to remove the entire lens at once and may have to remove the rest of it during a second procedure.

There may be other risks, depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.

How do I prepare for a cataract surgery?

Before surgery, the healthcare provider will do tests to check your eye and measure it to pick the right kind of lens.

Your healthcare provider may ask you to not eat or drink for 12 hours before surgery. Ask your healthcare provider if you also need to stop taking any of your usual medicines. You will need to arrange for a family member or a friend to drive you home afterward.

On the day of the procedure, the healthcare provider will place drops in your eye to widen the pupil, the black circle in your eye. The area around your eye will be cleaned. You will also get medicine to numb your eye so that you won’t feel the surgery. You might also receive a sedative to help you relax. Most people stay awake during the procedure.

What happens during cataract surgery?

The surgery itself usually takes less than an hour. The healthcare provider will look at your eye through a special microscope. Then he or she will make a tiny cut (incision) in the cornea, the outer covering of your eyeball.

The healthcare provider breaks the cloudy lens into pieces with a device that makes sound waves. The pieces are suctioned out through the small cut. In most cases, the healthcare provider inserts a new lens through the same incision. You may need stitches.

The incision and lens removal may be assisted with the use of a laser.

If your lens can’t be broken up by the sound waves, a larger incision can be made to remove the cloudy lens.

You probably won’t feel much pain during the surgery, but you may notice pressure or a “pulling” feeling.

What happens after cataract surgery?

The healthcare provider may place a patch over your eye and have you rest before you leave. You may need to use special eye drops for a few days to help prevent infection and wear a special shield to protect your eye. Ask your healthcare provider how long you should avoid activity, such as leaning down or lifting heavy objects.

Avoid rubbing your eye after your surgery. While you’re healing, try to not sleep on the treated eye. Avoid getting soap or shampoo into your eye, and wear sunglasses when you’re in bright light. Follow all other instructions you’re given.

Call your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Vision changes
  • Fever, chills, or any other sign of infection
  • Redness, swelling, discharge, pain, or bleeding from the treated eye

Your eye should heal fully within 10 weeks. Be sure to keep any follow-up appointments so that your healthcare provider can make sure you’re healing properly.


Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure
  • The reason you are having the test or procedure
  • What results to expect and what they mean
  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
  • What the possible side effects or complications are
  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure
  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
  • When and how will you get the results
  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure


March 22, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Griggs, Paul B., MD,Taylor, Wanda, RN, Ph.D