Cataract surgery is a common operation, especially in people over age 65.
Cataract surgery is usually done as an elective procedure for visual problems. People sometimes wait to have the procedure until their eye condition causes them to:
Today, however, some eye doctors and surgeons recommend not delaying cataract surgery. The surgery is much safer and more successful than in the past. Delaying surgery may make the surgery more difficult to perform. However, a cataract rarely causes an emergency, so you should not have surgery until you feel comfortable doing so.
Cataract surgery may also be recommended when a cataract interferes with the treatment of another eye problem, such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy.
Cataract surgery is usually done as an outpatient under local anesthesia. Surgery usually takes less than one hour. Most cataract surgeries involve removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial one.
There are 2 primary types of cataract removal surgery:
In both types of surgery, local anesthesia is used so that you do not feel any pain. This can either be in the form of an injection given below the eye or liquid medication into the eye during the surgery. You will also likely be given a sedative to make you more comfortable.
In most cases, the removed lens is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL is a clear or yellow-tinted artificial lens. It requires no special care and remains permanently in the eye. In some cases, an IOL cannot be used due to surgical complications, unusual anatomy, or other eye diseases. In these rare cases, either a contact lens or eyeglasses that provide powerful magnification are used after the surgery to correct the vision.
Before, during, and after your cataract surgery. Vancouver Island Health Authority website. Available at: http://www.viha.ca/NR/rdonlyres/D8D64302-6F3C-4CFF-B525-E90B2D8D3957/0/cataract.pdf. Accessed November 21, 2013.
Cataract. American Optometric Association website. Available at: http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/cataract?sso=y. Accessed May 10, 2017.
Cataracts and Cataract Surgery. Patient UK website. Available at: https://patient.info/doctor/cataracts-and-cataract-surgery. Updated November 20, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2017.
Cataracts in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116240/Cataracts-in-adults. Updated November 28, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2017.
Facts about cataract. National Eye Institute. Available at: https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts. Updated September 2015. Accessed May 10, 2017.
What are cataracts? American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/cataracts/index.cfm. Updated November 15, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2017.
What is a cataract? NIH Senior Health website. Available at: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/cataract/whatisacataract/01.html. Updated January 2013. Accessed May 10, 2017.
Last reviewed May 2017 by Michael Woods, MD FAAP
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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