Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Cataract surgery

3-minute read

Why is cataract surgery performed?

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.

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 to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a permanently implanted plastic lens called an intraocular lens.

How to prepare for cataract surgery

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 and light sedation, although some have a general anaesthetic.

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

What happens during cataract surgery?

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 the 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 cataract surgery

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 with cataract surgery?

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, 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

Learn more about surgical procedures in general with information such as:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy lens (cataract) from your eye and replacing it with a clear plastic lens.

Read more on WA Health website

Cataracts - Better Health Channel

A cataract of the eye is like the lens of a camera becoming fogged up.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Eye Cataracts: Causes & Treatments | Fred Hollows Foundation

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. There are several prominent causes and treatments available. Fred Hollows provides access to treatment for those affected.

Read more on Fred Hollows Foundation website

Intraocular Lens Implant - IOL Surgery | Fred Hollows Foundation

IOLs are an integral part of restoring sight to someone with cataract.

Read more on Fred Hollows Foundation website

Cataracts in Patients with Glaucoma | Glaucoma Australia

What impact does development of cataracts have on someone already living with glaucoma? Now I have cataracts as well! After grappling with a diagnosis of...

Read more on Glaucoma Australia website

Five Frequently Asked Questions About Cataract | Fred Hollows Foundation

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness globally, accounting for 35% of the world’s blindness. Discover the answers to five frequently asked questions about cataract.

Read more on Fred Hollows Foundation website

Consumer guide - Cataract Clinical Care Standard | Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care

Information for consumers based on the Cataract Clinical Care Standard.

Read more on Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care website

Cataracts | Vision Australia. Blindness and low vision services

What is it?  One of the most common eye conditions impacting older Australians. A cataract is the clouding of the clear lens in the eye and can be in one or both eyes. It can occur due to ageing but can also affect younger people and babies can be born with cataracts. 

Read more on Vision Australia website

Glossary of Eye Conditions | Fred Hollows Foundation

Glaucoma, Cataract and Trachoma are just a few examples of many eye conditions and diseases that exist worldwide. Learn more with a list of common eye conditions and terms.

Read more on Fred Hollows Foundation website

Eyes in the sun -

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage the eyes, especially in Australia. Problems include sunburn to the cornea, surfer's eye (pterygium), and cataracts.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.