9th of September 2020

What should I ask my doctor about cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is a very common operation performed to improve a person’s vision. It involves removing a cataract, which is the natural lens of the eye that has become cloudy, and replacing it with a clear artificial lens. Cataract is one of the most common causes of visual impairment world wide, and the surgery often has a huge positive impact for people – especially those who have significant cataracts that cause major visual impairment.

For people who require cataract surgery to see better, it is always best to approach the surgery knowing all the right facts. Here are some common questions I am asked about cataract surgery:

1. Will it hurt?

The vast majority of people who undergo cataract surgery are comfortable and pain-free throughout the surgery. I work with excellent anaesthetists who provide very good numbing around the eye with local anaesthetic. This is administered under sedation, making the whole experience comfortable and relaxed.

2. Will I be awake through the procedure?

People undergoing cataract surgery are awake and pleasantly (and lightly) sedated. They tolerate the procedure and are comfortable because of the anaesthetics. Sometimes they see interesting patterns or coloured lights while the operation is occurring.

3. Are both eyes performed at the same time?

Generally cataract surgery is performed 1 eye at a time, with a 2-4 week interval between eyes to allow sufficient recovery. Performing cataract surgery on both eyes simultaneously is not ideal, as the vision can be blurred for several days following cataract surgery; further-more it is safer to separate the procedures.

For various reasons, in some cases it is preferred to perform the second operation close to the first (eg 5-7 days apart).

4. Is the surgery done with laser?

Cataract surgery almost always involves some form of surgical incision requiring an operating theatre. Some of the steps of the cataract surgery can be performed by a specialty-designed laser machine. Regardless of whether some steps are performed with laser, manual surgery in a sterile operating theatre is still required to complete the operation. Speak to your surgeon about the pros and cons of laser cataract surgery.

5. Will I need glasses after surgery?

In cataract surgery the artificial lens is chosen to allow crisp distance vision without glasses. However often reading glasses are needed for near vision. Talk to your surgeon about options to be spectacle-free for both distance and near.

6. How long after the surgery will I see better?

The vision after cataract surgery is often blurred for several days following cataract surgery, but then the vision becomes quite sharp.