Cataract Surgery: Procedure, Safety, Recovery, Effect


These FAQs will help prospective cataract patients to know what to expect from their surgical procedure, how to prepare for it, and what precautions are to be taken upon completion of the surgery.

What Are Cataracts?

A cataract is a medical condition that affects the eye, causing a protein buildup in the lens that leads to unclear vision as the lens gradually become opaque. This prevents light from passing through in an efficient manner. Cataract is a leading cause of blindness and develops due to aging. However, it can also be caused due to hereditary conditions, certain drugs, extended exposure to UV light, diabetes, glaucoma, eye injuries, or smoking. Symptoms include a blurry vision, distorted night vision, formation of halos, declining vision, and increasing difficulty in reading and differentiating colors.

What Is A Cataract Surgery?

A cataract surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure, with the sole purpose of removing the cataract from the lens capsule, by replacing the natural lens of the eye with an implant. This helps in eliminating the blurriness and significantly improves vision. However, intraocular lens implants are not advised for some patients, and they need to rely on either glasses or contact lenses to take over the work of natural lenses in the eye. The procedure is quick, painless, and has a faster recovery period.

How is A Cataract Surgery Performed?

The most common procedure to remove the cataract is called phacoemulsification. Phacoemulsification involves making a tiny incision in the side of the cornea which is the front part of the eye. Then the ophthalmologist or M.D. performing the surgery inserts a small instrument and breaks the center of the disrupted lens with a high-frequency ultrasound, after which suction is employed to remove it. Once the lens is sucked out, it is replaced with an IOL made from either acrylic, plastic, or silicone. A newly replaced lens allows the eye to function properly and facilitates a clearer vision.

How Safe Is A Cataract Surgery?

Even with a high success rate, it is important to understand the risks and the complications of a cataract surgery, especially for patients with other eye related problems and health disorders. Like any other invasive procedure, there may be issues that come up during or after the surgery, although they can be treated. The risks and complications may include bleeding inside the eye, swelling in the retina or the cornea, retinal detachment, possible buildup of pressure in the eye and probable loss of vision.

Post Surgery Precautions And Recovery

Immediately after the surgery, the patient needs to rest in a recovery area till the grogginess subsides, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, due to the heavy anesthesia or sedation. Patients are normally discharged on the very same day of surgery but they are advised not to drive. The recovery period of a cataract surgery is usually short, unless the patient suffers from major eye problems.

After the surgery, it is important to use the prescribed eye drops recommended by the ophthalmologist. It’s also essential to have someone available who can drive the patient back home, as even with the sunglasses given to protect the eye from bright light, the patient will not be in a position to drive.

It is advised to remove the protective shield from the eye several hours after rest at home. It is also imperative to tape the shield back on the eye before sleeping, even for short naps, as the eye needs to be protected. The patient should not undertake any strenuous activity during the first few weeks post the surgery, till the vision is completely restored.

What Can You Expect After Undergoing A Cataract Surgery?

It is normal to feel a little itchiness and discomfort following a cataract surgery. You can expect a little fluid discharge due to sensitivity. Avoid rubbing of the eye and do not exert any pressure on it. The discomfort will disappear in a few days and complete healing will take place in about eight weeks. Follow-up care is essential for six months following surgery.

How Soon Can You Expect Your Vision To Improve After Undergoing A Surgery?

A cataract surgery is a simple, safe, and effective procedure to restore impaired vision. You can expect adequate vision correction in three to four weeks following a cataract surgery, however; continued monitoring is needed to maintain a healthy vision.

Who Is Qualified To Perform A Cataract Surgery?

A cataract surgery should be performed by a certified and licensed ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating eye defects through invasive and non-invasive approaches. It is important to choose the right eye surgeon to achieve a positive outcome and prevent post-surgery complications. An experienced cataract surgeon with a successful track record is enough to insure a good outcome for your surgery.

How Long Does A Cataract Surgery Take? Is The Procedure Painful?

A cataract surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure that does not take anything more than 20 to 30 minutes. However, you may be required to report at the surgery center at least 2 hours prior to the surgery. You are required to remain awake during the procedure, but it is performed under the effect of local sedation and is typically painless.

How Do I Prepare Myself For A Cataract Surgery?

To know if you are a candidate for cataract surgery, you need to schedule a consultation with an ophthalmologist who will then review your medical history to determine if you are a suitable candidate for this minimally invasive surgery. If you are found eligible to undergo a cataract surgery, you should:

  • Apply for at least a two-day work off for the procedure as you need adequate rest to recover.
  • You need to make prior arrangements for pick and drop as you would be discharged on the same day. The entire process should take nothing more than 3 hours.
  • Ideally you should skip eating prior to the surgery, but if it difficult for you to stay empty stomach; you may have a light breakfast.
  • Cataract surgery patients are asked to refrain from alcohol for at least 24 hours before the surgery can take place.
  • Patients are advised to wash their hair on the day of the surgery in order to maintain hygiene.

Will My Insurance Cover The Cost of My Surgery?

A standard cataract procedure that involves the use of a monofocal lens is mostly covered by Medicare or insurance. However, if your surgery employs a premium lens, the chances are that, it is not covered by your insurance company and you may have to pay the difference amount out of your own pocket. You may consult your eye care specialist to know your payment options. Payments for premium procedures can also be made through a care credit financing scheme.

If you have cataracts in both the eyes, your eye care specialist will schedule a second cataract surgery after a suitable time period. The gap allows your first eye surgery to heal. Complications are generally rare when you get operated by an experienced surgeon.

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