Cataract Removal
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Cataract Removal

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Cataract removal is a procedure to remove a cataract. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens.

Parts of the Body Involved


Reasons for Procedure

The lens of the eye is responsible for focusing images onto the back of the eye. It is normally transparent. As a normal part of aging, the lens begins to cloud and causes a gradual, painless loss in vision.



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Cataract removal is most often performed for the following reasons:

  • To improve vision
  • To better examine the back of the eye when monitoring for damage from certain diseases such as diabetes or glaucoma

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

As with any surgery, if you are in good health you have fewer risks. Examples of risk factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Recent or chronic illness
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Infection
  • History of trauma to the eye
  • Extreme myopia nearsightednesss)

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Your doctor will likely do the following:

  • Complete eye exam
  • An A-scan, which is a test using either ultrasound or a special laser, to determine the strength of the replacement lens
  • Administer eyedrops

During Procedure

Anesthesia, sedative, ultrasound probe (phacoemulsification technique only)


Usually local sedation by injection

Description of the Procedure

There are two main types of cataract removal. The large majority of cataract surgeries are performed using the phacoemulsification technique.

Phacoemulsification Technique:

An ultrasound probe breaks the cloudy lens into tiny fragments. The fragments are vacuumed out through a tiny incision. An intraocular lens implant is inserted to replace the natural lens that was removed. Because the incision is tiny, stitches are often not necessary and visual improvement is usually noted relatively soon after surgery.

Extracapsular Technique:

The cataract is removed as one entire piece. This requires a larger incision and stitches. An intraocular lens implant is inserted to replace the natural lens that was removed. Recovery is usually slower, due to the larger incision. The stitches sometimes need to be removed, which is usually done in the office.

After both procedures, the surgeon usually places a patch over the eye.

After Procedure

You will need to have an eye examination. You will be given eye drops.

How Long Will It Take?

The process takes less than 1 hour.

Will It Hurt?

Most patients report no significant pain during the procedure. You may feel pulling or pressure sensations.

Possible Complications

Cataract surgery usually has few complications. However, no surgery is without risk. Complications can include, but are not limited to:

  • Postoperative inflammation or infection
  • Retinal detachment
  • Dislocation of intraocular lens implant
  • Clouding of lens capsule
  • Blindness (rare)
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Macular disease
  • Decreased vision
  • Double vision
  • Droopy eyelid
  • Need for more surgery or laser

Average Hospital Stay

The process is done on an outpatient basis. You will be home the same day.

Postoperative Care

After surgery, your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for yourself. This may include such steps as:

  • Rest—Avoid any strenuous activity, including lifting and bending, until cleared by your doctor.
  • You will wear a patch on your eye after your surgery. Do not remove the patch until instructed by your doctor.
  • You'll probably be given an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eyedrops to use for several weeks after your surgery. Use these eyedrops as prescribed and store them as advised by your pharmacist or doctor. Most anti-inflammatory drops need to be shaken very well prior to each time you put them in your eyes.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery until advised by your doctor.
  • Take only non-aspirin containing medications for minor pain, unless advised otherwise by your physician.
  • Your doctor may ask you to wear an eye shield at night.
  • Wear dark glasses when you go outside.


You should notice improvements in your vision, although at first your vision may actually be worse than prior to the surgery. Every patient and every eye heals differently. One eye may heal quicker or slower than the other. Since each lens is individually fitted for each patient, you will likely need weaker glasses or contacts, or possibly none at all, after this procedure.

Although your doctor may allow you to resume your usual activities within several days, your eye will continue to heal for several weeks. It is best to avoid heavy lifting and bending. Make it a habit to wear ultraviolet-protecting sunglasses when you are outside.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

  • Signs of infection
  • Change in vision
  • Visual symptoms, such as floaters, flashing lights, or reduced visual field
  • Pain or blood in the eye
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge
  • Any other symptoms


American Academy of Ophthalmology

American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS)



Health Canada


Agency for Health Care Research and Policy website. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/ .

American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.aao.org .

Last reviewed March 2008 by Alexander J. Anetakis, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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