24th of October 2022

Myths About Cataract Surgeries & Why Not to Worry About It

Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed and most successful operation globally. Its success stems from the brevity of surgery, the rapid recovery and predictable outcomes. Still, if you need cataract surgery, you may have some concerns and fears about it. Here are some common myths to expose about cataract surgery:

  • After cataract surgery, throw away your glasses

In cataract surgery the cataract is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens. The technology behind these lenses is improving rapidly and impressively, which means that more and more reliably, after cataract surgery people do not need glasses for seeing at a distance (eg driving, golf, watching TV). However they often still need glasses for near activities such as reading fine print. Fortunately there are options to reduce dependence on glasses for reading – if you are interested in exploring these please make an appointment to see A/Prof Simon Skalicky to discuss.

  • I see better straight away

While the recovery following routine cataract surgery is rapid, it is normal for the vision to be blurred for the first few days. Depending on how dense the cataract was to start with, people are often blown away by the improvement on that first day when the eye patch is removed – truly this is the most satisfying moment for any cataract surgeon. The vision will continue to improve over the coming days.

  • It would be better if I was put to sleep for the surgery

Typically cataract surgery is performed under gentle sedation with local anaesthetic. If you are having surgery, an expert medical specialist anaesthetist gently sedates you and then provides numbing medicine around your eye. This means you are often awake during the surgery, can hear what is said in the theatre and remember the experience. But – it is not unpleasant or painful, and you are relaxed and comfortable. You might think it would be better to be put to sleep (eg with a general anaesthetic), but this is not as safe for you, is much harder for your body to handle, and increases the risk of potential problems with your heart or lungs. 

  • Cataract surgery is painful

In the vast majority of cases people are comfortable during cataract surgery. This is because before the surgery, the anaesthetist makes sure the eye is numb with the application of local anaesthetic around the eye. Even if you might be feeling something during the operation, you can let the team know and additional local anaesthetic is applied until you are quite comfortable. After the surgery the eye is generally comfortable and pain minimal.

  • Cataracts can grow back

This is not true. Once a cataract is removed it never comes back. Sometimes, several years after cataract surgery, the bag in which the new intraocular lens sits can become cloudy: this can obscure vision. It is called a posterior capsular opacity and is sometimes referred to as a “secondary cataract”. But it is not a regrowth of the cataract and is treated with a minor laser procedure in the clinic to remove the cloudy portion of the bag and rapidly restore vision.