A cataract is the clouding of the normally clear lens. Cataracts are painless, they blur your vision by restricting the amount of light that enters your eye.

What is Cataract?

If your vision gets cloudy because you have a cataract, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove the lens of your eye and replace it with an artificial one. It’s a common and safe procedure, and when it’s done, you’ll be able to see better.

Cataract surgery is used to restore cataract-related vision loss. During the procedure, the clouded lens inside your eye will be replaced with a clear artificial lens. Cataract surgery itself is painless. A typical procedure doesn’t take very long — only about 15 minutes. It’s usually an outpatient procedure and doesn’t require an overnight stay in a hospital.

What is Cataract Surgery?

The cloudy lens inside your eye will be removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). The new lens helps restore the clear vision you had before cataracts developed.

During any form of cataract surgery, special precautions are taken to ensure that you’re completely relaxed and pain-free. At worst, patients can experience a slight sensation of pressure, but this is not painful.

Here are the basic steps in typical modern cataract surgery:

  • A small incision is made along the side of the cornea.
  • A high-frequency ultrasound device or laser is used to carefully break up the cloudy lens into small fragments.
  • The lens fragments are gently removed from the eye using suction.
  • After all, fragments have been removed, the surgeon inserts the artificial lens securely behind the pupil and the coloured part of the eye (iris) in the same location your natural lens occupied.
  • The incision heals on its own without the need for stitches.
  • A protective shield is placed over the eye to keep it safe during the early stages of recovery.

If you need surgery in both eyes, your cataract surgeon will typically wait for one to three weeks between procedures to give the first eye a chance to heal.

Preparing for cataract surgery

Before you schedule cataract surgery, your eye doctor will perform a comprehensive eye exam to check the overall health of your eyes and decide if anything will prevent you from having surgery.

A refraction test also will be performed to determine your nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism measurements before surgery. Additional measurements of your eyes will be taken to determine the shape of your eye and which type of implantable lens you need.

Prior to cataract surgery, you will be advised about what to expect before, during and after your procedure. This information is meant to help you make an informed decision about proceeding with surgery.

Your eye doctor will ask about medications and supplements you are taking; some of these can increase your risk of complications and may need to be discontinued temporarily.

If you have any questions or concerns about cataract surgery, be sure to discuss them with your eye doctor and cataract surgeon before signing the “informed consent” documents that authorize surgery.

Cataract surgery recovery

Uncomplicated cataract surgery typically only takes about 15 minutes, but expect to be at the surgical centre for 90 minutes or longer, since extra time is needed for preparation, along with a post-operative evaluation and recovery instructions.

You will need to have someone drive you home after cataract surgery. To protect your eyes from sunlight and other bright light as your eye recovers, you will be given a special pair of post-operative sunglasses.

Medicated eye drops will need to be used for a few weeks, and you will need to wear your protective eye shield while sleeping or napping for about a week.

While your eye heals, you might experience some eye redness and blurred vision during the first few days or even weeks following the procedure.

During at least the first week of your recovery, you need to avoid:

  • Strenuous activity and any lifting over 25 pounds.

  • Bending, exercising and activities that can stress the eye.

  • Exposing your eye to water. Since it can cause an infection, you’ll need to keep your eye closed while showering or bathing. Avoid swimming or sitting in hot tubs for at least two weeks.

  • Any activity that would expose your healing eye to dust, grime or other infection-causing contaminants.

Your cataract surgeon may give you additional instructions, depending on your specific needs and the type of procedure performed.