How safe is cataract surgery?

Woman who had cataract surgery

How Safe Is Cataract Surgery?

Surgery is an excellent option if you're experiencing vision problems due to your cataracts. Cataract surgery is one of the most common types of surgical procedures in the world. In fact, about 10 million people opt to have their cataracts removed every year, according to a report published in Community Eye Health Journal.

Why Is Surgery Recommended?

Your ophthalmologist will tell you that you have cataracts if the clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy. The lens, located behind your iris and pupil, focuses light rays on the retina. (The retina is the light-sensing layer of cells at the back of the eye.)

As you grow older, proteins in the lens form clumps that make your vision look cloudy. Cataracts cause a variety of vision problems, including:

  • Blurry Vision
  • Cloudy or Foggy Vision
  • Faded Colors
  • Frequent Changes to Your Eyeglass or Contact Lens Prescriptions
  • Glare
  • Difficulty Seeing Well at Light or in Dim Light
  • Haloes Around Lights

Although small cataracts may not affect your eyesight much, vision problems increase as the cataracts grow. Your eye doctor may recommend cataract surgery if the cataracts make it difficult to read, drive or participate in your usual activities. As cataracts may increase your risk of falls and accidents, surgery can help you avoid broken bones and other injuries.

What Happens During Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery involves removing your clouded lenses and replacing them with artificial lenses called intraocular lens implants (IOLs). Depending on your preferences and your budget, you can choose an IOL that provides good distance vision or special types of IOLs that allow you to see well at all distances. If you choose an IOL that only offer good distance vision, you'll need to wear reading glasses to read or look at close objects.

Before surgery begins, special numbing drops EW placed in your eye. Once you're numb, your ophthalmologist makes a small incision (cut) at the edge of the cornea, the clear layer of tissue that covers your iris and pupil. Making the incision at this spot allows easy access to the lens.

After breaking up and removing the lens, the eye doctor will put the IOL in place. Depending on the type of lens, your eye doctor may use a few stitches to hold the lens in place.

You can leave the office or outpatient surgical center about an hour after your surgery in most case. You'll need to ask a friend or family member to drive you home, as your eye will be patched and your reaction time may be altered due to the effects of the sedative used during surgery.

Deciding if Cataract Surgery Is a Good Option for You

It's only natural to worry about surgery, particularly an operation that will affect your vision. Fortunately, 98% of people who have cataract surgery don't experience any serious complications, according to the Refractive Surgery Council.

Surgical complications can be more likely if you have general anesthesia. Since cataract surgery only requires numbing drops and a sedative, you won't have to worry about nausea, vomiting and other general anesthesia side effects.

When complications do occur after cataract surgery, they may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Infection

Rarely, serious infections, glaucoma, retinal detachment or loss of vision can occur. You can reduce your risk of complications by following your ophthalmologist's post-surgical instructions.

Before you have cataract surgery, your doctor will review your medical history and may order a few tests to make sure that surgery is a good idea. Pre-surgery tests may include a blood test to rule out anemia, a urine test to check your blood sugar level, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) to make sure your heart is working well. As long as these tests are normal, you can proceed with your surgery.

Have your cataracts begun to interfere with your vision? Contact our office to schedule a cataract surgery consultation.


NCBI: Community Eye Health Journal: Vision 2020: The Cataract Challenge

Mayo Clinic: Cataract Surgery

Refractive Surgery Council: Cataract Surgery at a Glance

All About Vision: How Safe Is Cataract Surgery?

National Eye Institute: Cataract Surgery, 9/22/2020

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