Cataract surgery FAQ

Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the country – 330,000 procedures are carried out each year in England alone! Globally, it’s the safest elective procedure and with technological advancements in artificial lenses, patients have never had more choice in their end result. It’s normal to have some concerns before coming in for treatment, so take a look at the answers to our most common cataract questions.

A cataract is an age-related condition where the eye’s natural lens – directly behind the pupil – begins to become cloudy. This typically occurs in people aged in their sixties and older.
Early cataracts usually have no symptoms until they grow big enough to prevent light passing properly through the lens. When this starts to happen, signs include cloudy vision, double vision, faded colours, sensitivity to glare, and halos around bright lights.
No, they can’t. They often, however, develop at the same time in each eye which could give the impression that they have spread.
The actual procedure usually takes around 10 minutes to perform, although you may be in the theatre for around half an hour. You should also prepare to be in the clinic for up to four hours on the day of surgery, which involves preparation time, a talk with the surgeon, and a chance for the patient advisor to explain all your post-op medication in depth.
Cataracts are removed using ultrasound, not laser. This process is called phacoemulsification. It uses sound waves to gently break up the cataract which is then extracted from the eye.
Cataract surgery is painless because anaesthetic eye drops are applied before the procedure.
We can perform bilateral procedures (both eyes treated on the same day, one after the other) but this will need to be discussed with your treating surgeon. If you prefer, you can also have your eyes treated separately, a week apart, diary permitting.
Most patients' vision is significantly better within the first 24 hours of their cataract eye surgery, however your optometrist will confirm when driving standards have been met.
Complications during or after a cataract eye surgery are rare. However, no surgery is 100% risk free, and complications can and do occur. Although low, there is an unavoidable risk of infection which occurs in 1 in 5,000 patients. The use of full sterile theatre conditions minimises this risk as much as possible. You will also be checked for infection at every aftercare consultation. Please read the Aftercare Advice Leaflet for important information and refer to the Agreement and Consent Form, both provided on treatment day, for a full list of possible complications. The most common complication is Posterior Capsular Opacification, which is easily treated. A typical symptom of PCO is clouded vision; for this reason the condition is also referred to as secondary cataract. This condition is treated with a very quick and simple procedure using a YAG laser.
Vision should improve within a few days, however it will take several months for the eye to heal and settle, and sometimes up to a month to resume normal activities. You should allow 3-5 days off work for recovery.
Cataract surgery is one of the safest surgeries performed in the world, with millions of successful procedures performed each year. 325,000 operations are performed annually in the UK alone!
Due to the dilating drops and the bright microscope lights, most patients find that their vision is blurred after their cataract surgery. This normally clears up within a few hours of the operation, however effects may continue for a day or two. We advise patients to bring a pair of sunglasses on the treatment day.
You may experience a slightly scratchy sensation when you blink which is absolutely normal. This is due to the microscopic incision made during the procedure on the surface of your eye. The feeling should disappear when the incision heals. Scratchiness could also be a symptom of dry eyes. Using artificial tears after your surgery usually helps to ease the symptoms.
Your treatment is a permanent procedure. Apart from some patients with monofocal lenses, who may need reading glasses, our aim is to make patients as spectacle-free as possible. This is achieved by inserting an artificial multifocal lens.
Cataracts are an age-related condition and, like with most age-related conditions, you can’t really prevent them. If you’re diabetic, keeping an eye on your blood sugar levels may help. Research suggests that vitamins A, C and E have links to slowing cataract formation, as well as eating fish or taking omega-3 supplements.


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