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Surgical technologist putting sterile drape in eye of a patient for cataract surgery.

Surgical technologist putting sterile drape in eye of a patient for cataract surgery.
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Cataract surgery

3-minute read

A cataract is an eye condition where the lens of your eye becomes cloudy, making it difficult to see. A small operation can replace your cloudy lens with a clear plastic lens.

Why is the procedure performed?

Cataracts can make your vision become blurry or hazy. They can also make you sensitive to bright lights, see starbursts around lights, or see everything as slightly faded or yellow. The treatment for cataracts is surgery on the affected eye.

How to prepare for the procedure

On the day of the surgery, you will be given eye drops that include an antibiotic. You will have a small plastic tube inserted into a vein in your arm. You might be given an injection around the eye or eye drops to make the eye go numb. Most people have a local anaesthetic, although some have a general anaesthetic.

Your doctor can give you more information to help you prepare for the operation.

What happens during the procedure

During the procedure you will be asked to lie on your back for up to 45 minutes. The doctor will make a small cut in the eye to remove the cloudy lens and to insert a new, plastic lens. There will always be medical staff to talk to during the procedure. If you have any problems, you should tell one of the staff.

What to expect after the procedure

Your doctor will probably place a pad over the eye that was operated on. You might have some pain or discomfort in that eye. If you do, you should tell a nurse or doctor so they can give you something to ease the pain. You will be given eye drops and told how long you need to take them for.

Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure and does not require an overnight stay. You should not drive until your vision has returned to normal so you will need someone to take you home.

For a few weeks after the operation, you will need to avoid rubbing your eye and strenuous activity.

What can go wrong?

Problems with cataract surgery are not common. But some people have bleeding, infection or damage to the eye. If you notice your eye becoming red and painful, or fluid coming from the eye, or your sight getting worse, contact your eye specialist or go to an emergency department.

More information

About cataract surgery

Visit The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists website for more information about cataract surgery.

About surgical procedures

Visit the healthdirect surgical procedures page to learn more about surgical procedures in general with information such as:

Last reviewed: October 2016

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