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Definition

Cataract removal is a procedure to remove a cataract. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens.

Reasons for Procedure

The lens of the eye is responsible for focusing images onto the back of the eye. It is normally transparent. With cataracts, the lens begins to cloud over time. This will gradually cause a loss in vision.

Cataract removal is done when the cataract is causing problems with vision. The surgery improves vision.

Cataract

Cataracts

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Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Damage to the eye
  • Decreased vision
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Detached retina
  • Droopy eyelid
  • Need for more surgery

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Poor overall health
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Infection
  • History of trauma to the eye
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure

The following may be done prior to the procedure:

  • Complete eye exam
  • An A-scan—a test using either sound waves or a laser to determine the strength of the replacement lens
  • Administer eye drops
  • Administer antibiotic injections
Anesthesia

Local anesthesia will be used. It will make the area numb.

Description of the Procedure

There are two main types of cataract removal.

Phacoemulsification Technique:

Most cataract removal surgeries are done using this technique. An ultrasound probe will break the cloudy lens into tiny fragments. A tiny incision will be made into the eye. The fragments will then be vacuumed out through the incision. A lens implant will be inserted to replace the affected lens. Stitches are often not needed. You may notice an improvement in your vision soon after surgery.

Extracapsular Technique:

An incision will be made in the eye. The cataract will be removed in one piece through the incision, along with the anterior capsule of the lens. The lens implant will be inserted to replace the affected lens. Because the incision will be larger, you will need stitches. The recovery will take longer with this technique.

After either procedure, a patch may be used over the eye while it heals.

How Long Will It Take?

The process takes less than 1 hour.

Will It Hurt?

Most people report no significant pain during the procedure. Pulling or pressure sensations during the procedure are normal.

Post-procedure Care
At the Care Center

The staff at the care center will provide eye drops. Another eye exam may be done.

At Home

It is not uncommon to have worse vision at first. Noticeable improvements in your vision will occur quickly, but every eye heals differently. One eye may heal more quickly or slowly than the other. Since each lens is individually fitted for each person, weaker glasses or contacts may be necessary (if at all).

Recovery at home may include:

  • Adjusting activities until the eye is healed.
  • Taking medications, such as antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops.
  • Taking pain medications.
  • Using an eye patch, eye shield,or UV-protecting sunglasses when you are outside..
Call Your Doctor

It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Change in vision
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, bleeding, or discharge from the affected eye
  • Visual disturbances, such as double vision, flashes of light, floaters, part of the field of vision is missing, or eye pressure

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

American Optometric Association
http://www.aoa.org

Eye Smart—American Academpy of Ophthalmology
http://www.eyesmart.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Ophthalmological Society
http://www.cos-sco.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References:

Cataract surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/cataracts/cataract-surgery.cfm. Updated February 1, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Cataract. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 1, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

Routine preoperative testing before cataract surgery. Agency for Health Care Research and Quality website. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/factsheets/aging/precataract/index.html. Updated October 28, 2014.

10/1/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Gower EW, Lindsley K, et al. Perioperative antibiotics for prevention of acute endophthalmitis after cataract surgery. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;7:CD006364.



Last reviewed October 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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