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All About Cataract Surgery

A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s lens which can result in blurred vision or vision loss. There are 3 main types of cataracts: subcapsular, nuclear and cortical cataract.

A subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens, while a nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone. A cortical cataract starts in the periphery of the lens and works its way to the center.

Learn more about cataracts.

Cataract Removal Surgery

Cataract removal surgery works by removing the clouding lens from the eye. When a cataract is removed, the patient is able to see better. The procedure uses an artificial lens one (called an intraocular lens) in place of the natural lens (which is removed).

The surgery is very successful in restoring vision. Cataract removal surgery is one of the most frequently performed optical surgeries in the United States, with more than 3 million procedures performed annually.

Will it Hurt?

Patients who undergo cataract surgery likely do not have to stay at the outpatient center overnight following the procedure. It is common for adults to be awake during the surgery.

Numbing medicine is given as an eyedrop. It helps to block any pain that may be a result of the surgery. In addition, medicine is administered to help the patient relax. Children tend to receive general anesthesia which makes them unconscious and pain free.

While the procedure may be unnerving, know that discomfort is kept to a minimum.

The Procedure

To start, a doctor uses a special microscope to get a close look at the eye. From there, a small incision is made followed by the lens being removed by one of 3 ways:


  • Phacoemulsification. A special tool is used to break up the cataract into small pieces through the use of sound waves and then suctioned out of a tiny incision.
  • Extracapsular Extraction. A larger incision is made to allow the doctor to remove the cataract in one piece with a small tool.
  • Laser Surgery. Laser energy is guided to make the incisions and soften the cataract. The remainder of the surgery is much like the process of phacoemulsification.


Once the cataract has been removed, an artificial lens (intraocular lens) is placed into the eye to restore full focusing power and to help improve vision.

Typically, the surgeon closes the incision with a sutureless method. However, the surgeon may choose to close the cut with very small stitches that will need to be removed later.

Length of Procedure

The entire process takes up to half an hour. If both eyes require surgery, your doctor may recommend waiting 1-2 weeks between each surgery.

Risks of Surgery

Like most procedures, cataract removal surgery has a few risks. Rare complications include infection and bleeding which can lead to permanent vision problems. Our optometrist will walk you through these risks when discussing the surgery with you so that you are able to make an informed decision.

Tips For Recovering

Ensure your hands are washed well before and after using eyedrops or touching your eye. It is recommended to try and avoid soap and water making contact with your eye within the first few days.

It is best to take it easy and relax following the procedure. Light activities are okay as long as your doctor has approved of them. Recovery takes approximately 2 weeks or longer depending on the success rate of the procedure.

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