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Cataract surgery is common in people over age 65. It is done to treat eyesight problems.

It may also be done when a cataract gets in the way of treating another eye problem like glaucoma.

Cataract Surgery

It is often done without staying in the hospital overnight. Surgery often takes less than one hour. The cloudy lens will be removed and replaced with an artificial one.

There are two types of surgery:

  • Phacoemulsification —A tiny probe is put in the eye. It sends out ultrasound waves that break the cloudy lens into small pieces. The pieces are taken out with suction. Most people do not need stitches. This is the most common surgery.
  • Extracapsular surgery —An cut is made in the eye. The hard center of the lens is removed. The rest of the lens may be taken out by suction. Or, the back part of your lens may be left so the artificial lens has a place to rest. You will need stitches. This method is rarely done due to the risk of problems.

A local anesthesia is used so that you do not feel any pain. It may be an injection below the eye or liquid medicine put in the eye during surgery. You may also be given a sedative to make you more at ease.

In most people, the removed lens is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). This is a clear or yellow-tinted artificial lens. It needs no special care and stays in the eye. Rarely, it cannot be used due to surgical problems, your eye anatomy, or other eye problems. Either a contact lens or eyeglasses with strong magnification are used after the surgery to help you see.


Cataract. American Optometric Association website. Available at: Accessed February 13, 2019.

Cataracts in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated November 28, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2017.

Facts about cataract. National Eye Institute website. Available at: Updated September 2015. Accessed February 13, 2019.

Informed consent: obtaining from patients undergoing surgery. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: Updated September 14, 2018. Accessed February 13, 2019.

What are cataracts? American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: Updated November 9, 2018. Accessed February 13, 2019.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardJames P. Cornell, MD  Last Updated: 2/13/2019