Cataract surgery 


Cataracts: animation

This animation explains in detail what cataracts are and how they affect the eye. It also describes what happens during a cataract surgery, a procedure to remove the cataract.

Media last reviewed: 16/03/2013

Next review due: 16/03/2015

Cataract surgery is a common procedure used to treat cataracts that are affecting your daily activities.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are cloudy patches in the lens (the transparent structure at the front of the eye) which can make vision blurred or misty and can develop in one or both eyes.

Over time, the cloudy patches can become bigger and more of them can develop. As less light is able to pass through the lens, a person’s vision is likely to become blurry or cloudy. The cloudier the lens becomes, the more a person’s sight is affected.

In most cases, a cataract will continue to develop and surgery to remove the category is the only way to restore vision.

Read information about when cataract surgery is used.

The operation

Cataract surgery is one of the most common and quickest forms of surgery. Many people are able to return to their usual daily routine 24 hours after the operation.

The procedure lasts 30-45 minutes and vision is improved almost immediately. 

If you have cataracts in both eyes, surgery will be carried out on separate occasions. This gives the first eye time to heal and your vision time to return.

Read more information about how cataract surgery is performed.

The results of cataract surgery may depend on which type of lens is fitted. Most people will need to wear glasses for either near or distance vision, or both. However, once lenses have been fitted, about 95% of people will find their vision returns to how it was before the cataracts appeared.

Getting back to normal

You will be able to go home as soon as the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off. You'll have to arrange for someone to take care of you for the first 24 hours after surgery.

Take it easy for the first two or three days after the operation and make sure to use any eye drops you are given by the hospital.

Other recommendations include:

  • try not to touch or rub your eye
  • keep soap and shampoo out of your eyes
  • do not swim for two weeks after surgery
  • avoid playing sports where there is a risk that you may get knocked in the eye for around two weeks

Read more information about recovering from cataract surgery.

Are there any risks?

Cataract surgery is common and associated risks are low. However, there are more risks involved with cataract surgery in children and people with certain conditions such as:

The most common complication is a condition called posterior capsule opacification (PCO) which causes cloudy vision to return. If you develop PCO, you may need laser eye surgery to correct it.

Other complications are much rarer and include:

  • infection in the eye
  • inflammation (swelling and redness) in the eye
  • tearing of the lens capsule
  • retinal detachment
  • inability to remove all of the cataract

Most people find cataract surgery is successful and are happy with the results. However, any of these complications may lead to loss of vision or pain and may require further surgery.

Read more information about the risks of cataract surgery.


Page last reviewed: 26/04/2012

Next review due: 26/04/2014


How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 522 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating


The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Shirrmontana said on 30 August 2013

Being insulin dependant diabetic and having cataracts, the op wasn't as straight forward as the surgeon hoped, I was terrified even though I had asked for a general they refused and gave me a local, my heart was racing and the Dr's concerned. Because of how tense I was, the surgeon said it was difficult getting the new lens in, and eventually it had to be stitched in place. 4+ weeks down the line I still couldn't see properly, everything very blurry, went back to see the surgeon, he said the stitches needed to come out - which wasn't painful, just a little uncomfortable and the second he released the stitches everything went crystal clear. Seems the stitches had caused astigmatism. I'm waiting to hear when my next eye op will be but my surgeon has made notes on my records for GA only.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Find and choose services for Cataract surgery