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Cataract removal is a procedure to remove a cataract. A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens.
The lens of the eye is responsible for focusing images onto the back of the eye. It is normally transparent. With cataracts, the lens begins to cloud over time. This will gradually cause a loss in vision.
Cataract removal is done when the cataract causes problems with vision. The surgery improves vision.
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
The following may be done prior to the procedure:
Local anesthesia will be used. It will make the area numb.
There are 2 main types of cataract removal.
Most cataract removal surgeries are done using this technique. An ultrasound probe will break the cloudy lens into tiny fragments. A tiny incision will be made into the eye. The fragments will then be vacuumed out through the incision. A lens implant will be inserted to replace the affected lens. Stitches are often not needed. You may notice an improvement in your vision soon after surgery.
An incision will be made in the eye. The cataract will be removed in one piece through the incision, along with the anterior capsule of the lens. The lens implant will be inserted to replace the affected lens. Because the incision will be larger, you will need stitches. The recovery will take longer with this technique.
After either procedure, a shield may be used over the eye while it heals.
The process takes less than 1 hour.
Most people report no significant pain during the procedure. Pulling or pressure sensations during the procedure are normal.
The staff at the care center will provide eye drops. Another eye exam may be done.
It is not uncommon to have worse vision at first. Noticeable improvements in your vision will occur quickly, but every eye heals differently. One eye may heal more quickly or slowly than the other. Since each lens is individually fitted for each person, weaker glasses or contacts may be necessary.
Recovery at home may include:
It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Optometric Association
Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Cataract surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at:
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Updated December 11, 2017. Accessed December 14, 2017.
Cataract. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116240/Cataracts-in-adults . Updated August 31, 2016. Accessed December 14, 2017.
10/1/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116240/Cataracts-in-adults : Gower EW, Lindsley K, et al. Perioperative antibiotics for prevention of acute endophthalmitis after cataract surgery. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;7:CD006364.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP