What are secondary cataracts and how can you treat them?

13 May 2021

Author: Kate Green

secondary cataracts

What is a primary cataract?


As you get older, the proteins in your eye clump together and, over the years, this slowly clouds the natural lens in your eye. Cataract surgery is performed more than 18 million times globally each year. By the age of 80, over half over people will have had a cataract as it is simply a natural part of the ageing process.


Symptoms of a primary cataract can be:

  • Faded colour vision
  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Halos around lights


These symptoms will usually progress over time and, if the cataract is left untreated for long enough, it can cause you to lose all vision and become legally blind. This is why cataract surgery is sight-saving, essential treatment.


What is a secondary cataract?


A secondary cataract occurs after cataract surgery. The medical term for this condition is ‘posterior capsular opacification’ also known as PCO. Up to 20% of cataract surgery patients will develop PCO after their treatment, making it the most common complication following the procedure. It is impossible to predict which patients will develop secondary cataracts and go on to need further treatment after their primary cataract surgery.


The symptoms of secondary cataracts are quite similar to those of a primary cataract but, once you’ve had cataract surgery, you cannot actually form a cataract on the lens again. It is important to remember that a secondary cataract is not a reappearance of a primary cataract. The symptoms of a secondary cataract can be one or any combination of the following:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Reduced colour vision
  • Light glares
  • Halos around lights
  • Trouble seeing objects at extreme distances (either far away or close up)


How do secondary cataracts occur?


To understand why people get secondary cataracts, it’s important know what goes on during cataract surgery. In cataract surgery, your eye’s natural, clouded lens is removed and is then replaced with a clear artificial lens. You can read about the different types of lenses available here.


The artificial lens is inserted into the posterior lens capsule, which is at the back of the eye. However, when the old lens is extracted, some of its epithelial cells can remain in the capsule. Over a period of months or years following surgery, these cells can begin to clump together and form a secondary cataract by clouding the capsule. This stops the light from reaching the retina at the back of the eye, which is the part which actually allows us to see.


How can you treat secondary cataracts?


There is only one type of treatment available for removing secondary cataracts and it is a YAG laser capsulotomy. We offer this treatment at Optimax for a price of £395 per eye to any patients who find themselves developing a secondary cataract following their cataract surgery. The treatment takes under ten minutes to perform and is carried out by one of our expert lens surgeons.


Patients receive anaesthetic eye drops to ensure comfort throughout the procedure, as well as dilation eye drops to open up the pupil. During the capsulotomy, the surgeon creates an opening in the lens capsule using a laser, ensuring it is a precise incision. The laser breaks up the secondary cataract and this allows light to pass through the incision to the retina again, restoring clear, youthful vision!


Please do get in touch with us if you feel you could benefit from YAG laser treatment for secondary cataract removal. Give us a call on 0800 093 1110, or email enquiry@optimax.co.uk for further information.

Back to Blog