Cataract Surgery

The Basics

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. The lens is a clear part of the eye that helps to focus light, an image, on the retina (light-sensitive part at the back of the eye). Your doctor may suggest cataract surgery for you if your cataract severely impairs your daily functioning or if the cataract interferes with the treatment of another eye condition.

Cataract surgery is a procedure that involves removing the cloudy lens (cataract) and replacing it with an artificial lens. There are two types of cataract surgery: 1) phacoemulsification; and 2) extracapsular cataract extraction.

A patient undergoing cataract surgery.
A patient undergoing cataract surgery.

Risks and precautions

Cataract surgery is usually a straightforward and safe procedure. However, there are some risks of complications or side effects, including:

  • bleeding
  • swelling of the retina
  • detachment of the retina
  • infection
  • pain not relieved by over-the-counter pain medications
  • vision loss
  • nausea, vomiting, or excessive coughing
  • injury to the eye

Get immediate medical assistance if you experience any of these complications or side effects.

It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of the procedure, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.

Before the procedure

It is important that you fully understand what the procedure involves beforehand. Ask your doctor to explain the risks, benefits, and drawbacks of the procedure, and don't be shy to probe further until you are comfortable with your doctor's responses.

Before your scheduled surgery, your doctor will perform an ultrasound test to measure the size and shape of your lens so that a suitable artificial lens may be selected for you. Your doctor may also give you antibiotic eye drops or ointment 1 to 2 days before the surgery.

You may not be able to eat or drink anything 12 hours before the procedure; follow the timing that your doctor recommended.

If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you to stop taking any of these medications and products before the procedure. It is also important to tell them if you have allergies to certain medications or have certain medical conditions.

Plan to have someone drive you home after the procedure.

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The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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