Cataract Surgery

ExitCare Image A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. When a lens becomes cloudy, vision is reduced based on the degree and nature of the clouding. Surgery may be needed to improve vision. Surgery removes the cloudy lens and usually replaces it with a substitute lens (intraocular lens, IOL).

LET YOUR EYE DOCTOR KNOW ABOUT:

  • Allergies to food or medicine.

  • Medicines taken including herbs, eyedrops, over-the-counter medicines, and creams.

  • Use of steroids (by mouth or creams).

  • Previous problems with anesthetics or numbing medicine.

  • History of bleeding problems or blood clots.

  • Previous surgery.

  • Other health problems, including diabetes and kidney problems.

  • Possibility of pregnancy, if this applies.

RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS

  • Infection.

  • Inflammation of the eyeball (endophthalmitis) that can spread to both eyes (sympathetic ophthalmia).

  • Poor wound healing.

  • If an IOL is inserted, it can later fall out of proper position. This is very uncommon.

  • Clouding of the part of your eye that holds an IOL in place. This is called an "after-cataract." These are uncommon, but easily treated.

BEFORE THE PROCEDURE

  • Do not eat or drink anything except small amounts of water for 8 to 12 before your surgery, or as directed by your caregiver. 

  • Unless you are told otherwise, continue any eyedrops you have been prescribed.

  • Talk to your primary caregiver about all other medicines that you take (both prescription and non-prescription). In some cases, you may need to stop or change medicines near the time of your surgery. This is most important if you are taking blood-thinning medicine. Do not stop medicines unless you are told to do so.

  • Arrange for someone to drive you to and from the procedure.

  • Do not put contact lenses in either eye on the day of your surgery.

PROCEDURE

There is more than one method for safely removing a cataract. Your doctor can explain the differences and help determine which is best for you.

Phacoemulsification surgery is the most common form of cataract surgery.

  • An injection is given behind the eye or eyedrops are given to make this a painless procedure.

  • A small cut (incision) is made on the edge of the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye (cornea).

  • A tiny probe is painlessly inserted into the eye. This device gives off ultrasound waves that soften and break up the cloudy center of the lens. This makes it easier for the cloudy lens to be removed by suction.

  • An IOL may be implanted.

  • The normal lens of the eye is covered by a clear capsule. Part of that capsule is intentionally left in the eye to support the IOL.

  • Your surgeon may or may not use stitches to close the incision.

There are other forms of cataract surgery that require a larger incision and stiches to close the eye. This approach is taken in cases where the doctor feels that the cataract cannot be easily removed using phacoemulsification.

AFTER THE PROCEDURE

  • When an IOL is implanted, it does not need care. It becomes a permanent part of your eye and cannot be seen or felt.

  • Your doctor will schedule follow-up exams to check on your progress.

  • Review your other medicines with your doctor to see which can be resumed after surgery.

  • Use eyedrops or take medicine as prescribed by your doctor.