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Cataract Removal

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  • Definition

    Cataract removal is a procedure to remove a cataract . A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens.
  • Reasons for Procedure

    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 is causing problems with vision. The surgery improves vision.
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  • Possible Complications

    Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
    • Inflammation
    • Infection
    • Damage to the eye
    • Decreased vision
    • Increased eye pressure
    • Detached retina
    • Droopy eyelid
    • Need for more surgery
    Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
    • Obesity
    • Smoking
    • Diabetes
    • Poor overall health
    • Bleeding disorders
    • Infection
    • History of trauma to the eye
  • What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure
    The following may be done prior to the procedure:
    • Complete eye exam
    • An A-scan—a test using either sound waves or a laser to determine the strength of the replacement lens
    • Administer eye drops
    • Administer antibiotic injections
    Local anesthesia will be used. It will make the area numb.
    Description of the Procedure
    There are two main types of cataract removal.
    Phacoemulsification Technique:
    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.
    Extracapsular Technique:
    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 patch may be used over the eye while it heals.
    How Long Will It Take?
    The process takes less than 1 hour.
    Will It Hurt?
    Most people report no significant pain during the procedure. Pulling or pressure sensations during the procedure are normal.
    Post-procedure Care
    At the Care Center
    The staff at the care center will provide eye drops. Another eye exam may be done.
    At Home
    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 (if at all).
    Recovery at home may include:
    • Adjusting activities until the eye is healed.
    • Taking medications, such as antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops.
    • Taking pain medications.
    • Using an eye patch, eye shield,or UV-protecting sunglasses when you are outside..
  • Call Your Doctor

    It is important to monitor your recovery. Alert your doctor to any problems. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Change in vision
    • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, bleeding, or discharge from the affected eye
    • Visual disturbances, such as double vision, flashes of light, floaters, part of the field of vision is missing, or eye pressure
    If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

    American Optometric Association

    Eye Smart—American Academpy of Ophthalmology


    Canadian Ophthalmological Society

    Health Canada


    Cataract surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: Updated February 1, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

    Cataract. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated October 1, 2014. Accessed October 28, 2014.

    Routine preoperative testing before cataract surgery. Agency for Health Care Research and Quality website. Available at: Updated October 28, 2014.

    10/1/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Gower EW, Lindsley K, et al. Perioperative antibiotics for prevention of acute endophthalmitis after cataract surgery. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;7:CD006364.

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