Your eye surgeon has recommended cataract surgery because the lens in your eye has become cloudy making it difficult for you to see well enough to carry out your usual daily activities.
If the cataract is not removed, your vision may stay the same, but it will probably gradually get worse. Waiting for a longer period of time is unlikely to make the operation more difficult, unless your eyesight becomes so poor that all you can see is light and dark.
The purpose of the operation is to replace the cloudy lens (cataract) with a plastic lens (implant) inside your eye.
With a local anaesthetic you will be awake during the operation. You will not be able to see what is happening, but you will be aware of a bright light.
You will be escorted to theatre where your operation will take place. A peg will be clipped onto one of your fingers to monitor your pulse. The area around your eye is cleaned and then a light sterile drape will cover your face and chest.
A tube underneath the drape gently blows out some fresh air therefore you will be able to breathe normally.
During the operation you will be asked to keep your head still, and lie as flat as possible.
A member of the nursing staff is usually available to hold your hand during the operation, should you want them to.
The lids of the eye to be operated on, will be held open with a small instrument.
You will be asked to refrain from talking during the operation but you can be assured that a nurse will be present to ensure that you are comfortable.
The operation normally takes 15-20 minutes, but may take up to 45 minutes. Most cataracts are removed by a technique called phacoemulsification, in which the surgeon makes a very small cut in the eye, softens the lens with sound waves and removes the cataract through a small tube.
The back layer of the lens is left behind. An artificial lens (implant) is then inserted to replace the cataract. Sometimes a small stitch is put in the eye. At the end of the operation, a pad or shield may be put over your eye to protect it.
If you have discomfort, we suggest that you take a pain reliever such as paracetamol every 4-6 hours (but not aspirin – this can cause bleeding). It is normal to feel itching, sticky eyelids and mild discomfort for a while after cataract surgery.
Some fluid discharge is common. After a few days even mild discomfort should disappear. In most cases, healing will take upto 6 weeks, after which new glasses can be prescribed by your optician. You will be given eye drops to reduce inflammation.
The hospital staff will explain how and when to use them. Please don’t rub your eye. Certain symptoms could mean that you need prompt treatment, including:
After the operation you may read or watch TV almost straight away, but your vision may be blurred. The healing eye needs time to adjust so that it can focus properly with the other eye, especially if the other eye has a cataract.
The vast majority of patients have improved eyesight following cataract surgery.
Please note that if you have another condition such as diabetes, glaucoma or agerelated macular degeneration your quality of vision may still be limited even after successful surgery.
The most obvious benefits are greater clarity of vision and improved colour vision. Because lens implants are selected to compensate for existing focusing problems, most people find that their eyesight improves considerably after surgery but you will need to replace your glasses.
Reading glasses are usually needed after cataract surgery.
However, you should be aware that there is a small risk of complications, either during or after the operation.
Complications are rare and in most cases can be treated effectively. In a small proportion of cases, further surgery may be needed. Very rarely some complications can result in blindness.
The most common complication is called ‘posterior capsular opacification’. It may come on gradually after months or years after cataract surgery. When this happens, the back part of the lens capsule, which was left in the eye to support the implant, becomes cloudy.
This prevents light from reaching the retina. To treat this, the eye specialist uses a laser beam to make a small opening in the cloudy membrane in order to improve the eyesight.
This is a painless outpatient procedure which normally takes only a few minutes.
Instructions for the day of surgery
After your surgery, you may return to the hospital recovery area for a short time, where you will be given something to eat and drink.
After your surgery we would like you to go home and take it easy.
You are NOT to use any eye drops that evening.
Please do not rub or touch the eye.
It is normal for your eye to feel some itching and mild discomfort after surgery.
Some discharge is also common and your eye may be sensitive to lights.
If there is slight discomfort you can use a mild pain reliever (paracetamol).
If you experience a lot of pain or a decrease in your vision, you should contact the hospital. This is not normal.
Please discuss any activities you would like to participate in with the doctor.