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  • Writer's pictureMr Ahmad Elsahn

Cataract Surgery: What to Expect Before, During, and After

Updated: May 20

Cataract surgery is a remarkable procedure that can transform your vision, bringing back the clarity and vibrancy you may have been missing. It's a well-established and safe surgical technique, and knowing what to expect at each stage can help ease any apprehensions. In this blog post, we'll guide you through the journey of cataract surgery, from the initial consultation to your post-operative recovery.

Elderly woman

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye, leading to dim, blurry, or cloudy vision, and colors might appear faded. You may also become more sensitive to light and have trouble seeing at night. Cataracts usually begin forming around age 40 as lens proteins start to break down. Most people don't notice vision changes until after age 60, though sometimes cataracts can develop faster and cause issues earlier.

When do you need cataract surgery?

If you have cataracts, the decision to undergo cataract surgery is yours to make. Cataracts typically worsen gradually over time, and surgery to replace the cloudy lens is the only way to enhance your eyesight.

It's important not to base the decision solely on your eye test results; personal factors like daily activities, hobbies, and interests also play a role. You have the option to delay surgery and opt for regular check-ups to monitor the condition. Currently, there are no medications or eye drops proven to improve cataracts or halt their progression.

Before Cataract Surgery

1. Consultation:

The first step is to schedule a consultation with your ophthalmologist. They will conduct a comprehensive eye exam to assess the severity of your cataracts and your overall eye health. This is the time to discuss your expectations, any concerns, and ask any questions you may have.

Your eye surgeon (ophthalmologist) will measure the size and shape of your eye and the curve of your cornea to determine the correct focusing power for your new lens. They'll also review any medications you take, as you might need to stop some that could affect your surgery or recovery. Additionally, they'll likely prescribe antibiotic or steroid eye drops to use before and after the procedure to prevent infections and reduce swelling.

2. Pre-Operative Preparations:

Your doctor will provide specific instructions for the days leading up to your surgery, which may include discontinuing the use of certain medications, fasting before the procedure, and taking any prescribed eye drops.

During Cataract Surgery

1. Anaesthesia:

Cataract surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis, and local anesthesia is used to numb the eye. You may also be given a mild sedative to help you relax.

2. Removal of the Cataract:

The surgeon makes a small incision in the eye and uses ultrasound technology to break up and remove the cloudy cataract. This step is usually quick and painless.

3. Intraocular Lens (IOL) Placement:

After the cataract is removed, an IOL is inserted to replace the natural lens. The IOL is carefully chosen to match your vision needs, and it may correct any existing refractive errors.

4. Self-Sealing Incision:

The incision made in the eye is typically self-sealing, eliminating the need for stitches.

After Cataract Surgery

1. Recovery Area:

You'll be moved to a recovery area, where you'll rest and have the opportunity to enjoy a light snack.

2. Mild Discomfort:

Some patients experience mild discomfort or a gritty sensation in the eye for a short time after surgery. Your surgeon will provide pain relief, if needed.

3. Post-Operative Instructions:

You'll receive detailed instructions for post-operative care, including the use of prescribed eye drops and any restrictions on activities.

4. Vision Improvement:

In the days following surgery, your vision will gradually improve as the eye heals. Many patients experience noticeable improvements within a few days, and full recovery may take several weeks.

5. Follow-up Appointments:

You'll have follow-up appointments with your ophthalmologist to monitor your progress and ensure your eye is healing as expected.

The benefits of surgery

After cataract surgery, you should expect improved vision, including the ability to see things clearly, reduced glare when looking into bright lights, and better color perception. However, if you have other eye conditions such as diabetes or glaucoma, your vision may still be limited even after successful cataract surgery.

Risks of surgery

Complications after cataract surgery are rare, and most can be effectively treated. Risks associated with cataract surgery include swelling, infection, bleeding, drooping eyelid, displacement of the artificial lens, retinal detachment, glaucoma, secondary cataract, and loss of vision. Your risk of complications may be higher if you have another eye disease or a serious medical condition. In some cases, cataract surgery may not improve vision due to underlying eye damage from conditions like glaucoma or macular degeneration. It's advisable to assess and address other eye problems before opting for cataract surgery if possible.

How many days rest is needed after cataract surgery?

In most cases, full recovery from cataract surgery typically takes about four weeks, although many people notice improvements in their vision within days. During this period, there should be minimal pain or discomfort.

Your surgeon will provide specific instructions on how to care for yourself at home, including guidance on activities such as driving, swimming, wearing eye makeup, exercising, bending over, lifting heavy objects, and returning to work or other activities. It's helpful to have a family member or friend present to hear this information, or you can ask your surgeon to provide written instructions.

How painful is cataract surgery?

During and after cataract surgery, most individuals experience little to no pain. A topical anesthetic in the form of eye drops is administered to numb the eye during the procedure. Following surgery, you may feel a slight grittiness or tenderness in the eye, but over-the-counter pain medication is usually sufficient to alleviate any discomfort.

When should you call your doctor after cataract surgery?

Your eye might be a bit sensitive, feel scratchy, and teary for a few days after surgery, which is normal. It may also be more sensitive to light, or you might notice a red or pink hue over everything. Serious problems are uncommon, but call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following: loss of vision, pain that doesn't improve with over-the-counter pain relievers, significant redness in your eye, or if you see flashes of light or floaters.

What to Expect in the Long Term

Cataract surgery is highly successful, with the majority of patients experiencing significant vision improvement. It can lead to reduced dependence on glasses or contact lenses and a clearer, brighter world.

Cataract surgery is a transformative journey that restores clarity and quality to your vision. By knowing what to expect before, during, and after the procedure, you can approach it with confidence and look forward to a life with improved eyesight. Consult with your eye care specialist to discuss your unique needs and prepare for a journey to brighter, clearer vision.

Cararact Surgery at Eyepros

We offer a free no-obligation consultation to discuss your needs and what options would be most suitable for you. We have treatment centres based around the Midlands, including Nottingham, Birmingham and Derby. Get in touch to book your consultation.

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About The Author

Mr Ahmad Elsahn

Mr Ahmad Elsahn

Mr Ahmad Elsahn is a highly accomplished Consultant Ophthalmologist specialising in cataract surgery, minimally invasive glaucoma surgery and laser eye surgery, with over two decades of experience.

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