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Cataract & lens surgery FAQs


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When will I need cataract surgery?

In the early stages, some cataracts can be left untreated. When your sight deteriorates to a point where it interferes with your ability to carry out daily tasks (e.g. seeing in low-light situations such as at night), it could be time to consider surgery.

What is the cataract surgery success rate?

Traditional or manual cataract surgery is considered one of the safest surgical procedures in the world today, with a success rate of around 99%.1 Laser cataract surgery may reduce the risk of complications even further. Serious complications are rare with cataract surgery.

How long does cataract surgery take?

A typical procedure takes less than 30 minutes. Allowing for admission, preparation and recovery time, you’ll be in the day surgery for around 2 to 3 hours.

Will cataract surgery hurt?

We will administer a local anaesthetic (numbing drops) to your eye and you may also be given a sedative to help you relax. You should feel no pain.

What happens if I blink during cataract surgery?

Your surgeon will ensure that your eyelid is gently held open throughout the procedure so that you cannot blink.

If I have cataract surgery, will I be awake during the procedure?

Probably, but not necessarily – some people even fall asleep during the surgery. You are not required to be awake for the operation.

If I have cataract surgery, what will I see while I am operated on?

You may see a bit of light and some vague movement or you may see nothing at all. You will not be able to see what the surgeon is doing to your eye.

Will my eye hurt after cataract surgery?

You may feel some mild discomfort beginning a few hours after surgery. For most people, this resolves with a week, but may last longer in some cases.2 You will be given treatments to manage any discomfort or pain.

How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?

Your sight will usually recover within days but typically fluctuates for about a month before stabilising. 3 If you notice any significant reduction in your vision, tell your surgeon immediately. The protective shield is usually worn for the first day and your surgeon may also recommend the shield be used for the first few nights after the operation – this is usually the case if you can’t stop rubbing your eyes. Cataract surgery does not usually involve stitches.

Normal daily activities such as light housework can be resumed within a couple of days. With routine and successful surgery, patients are usually fit for all physical activities and contact sports one month after cataract surgery – this includes sparring in martial arts.

How long before I can drive a car after cataract surgery?

Driving is not recommended for the first few days after surgery to allow your eye to settle.

Can I have cataract surgery in both eyes at the same time?

It is generally preferable to give the first eye a chance to settle before planning surgery and lens requirements for the second eye. Even though cataract surgery is quite safe, operating on both eyes at the same time may increase the risk of serious complications and visual impairment (e.g. if both eyes were to get infected at the same time).4 However, there may be some situations where your surgeon recommends having both eyes done at once.

When can I have cataract surgery for my second eye?

Your doctor will be able to help you determine when the second eye can be operated on. Although it varies, most surgery is around two weeks apart. In the case of multifocal implants, early second-eye surgery hastens the recovery. Patients who are very short- or long-sighted also benefit from both eyes being operated on in quick succession, as it is common that their eyes are now significantly unbalanced. During the period between surgeries, a contact lens may be used to balance the eye that has not yet been operated on.

Will I still need glasses after cataract surgery or lens exchange?

Today’s replacement lenses can also be used to correct pre-existing vision problems due to short-sightedness, long-sightedness and/or astigmatism. For example, trifocal lenses provide focus at near, intermediate and far distances. These are typically the best option for achieving clear vision without glasses, although there are no guarantees. The most suitable candidates are over 55 years, rely heavily on glasses/contact lenses and are long-sighted. If you are quick to notice visual imperfections, then glasses may remain your best choice.

What are the risks from cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the most successful procedures in medicine, so the risk factor is relatively minimal. However, as with any surgery, complications can occur and may be related to the procedure itself or to the anaesthesia. Most of the complications from cataract surgery are minor and can be corrected. The success rate is high (99%),5 with around a 1 in 1000 risk of permanently impaired eyesight.6

Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of cataract surgery so that you can make a fully informed decision.

What are the potential complications of cataract and lens surgery?

Posterior capsule opacification (PCO) is the most common potential complication of cataract and lens surgery. PCO can occur when the back of the capsule (housing the lens) thickens. This can cause your vision to appear cloudy but can be treated quickly using a YAG laser outpatient procedure and eye drops.

Also, refer to the section ‘Potential complications’ at the bottom of the ‘Cataract & lens surgery’ page.

Does laser cataract surgery cost more?

As with any new technology, laser cataract surgery costs more than traditional cataract surgery. This is due to the operating cost of the laser. We offer laser cataract surgery in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Townsville and Mackay.

Is everyone suitable for laser cataract surgery?

No, there are certain patients who are not suitable for laser cataract surgery. Your surgeon will be able to advise if you are suitable after completing a thorough examination of your eyes.

Further reading

For more information about cataract and lens surgery, view the following resource:

Health Direct: Cataract surgery

  1. Stein JD et al. Severe adverse events following cataract surgery among Medicare beneficiaries. Ophthalmology. 2011 Sep; 118(9): 1716–1723. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.ophtha.2011.02.024 ↩︎
  2. Assam JH et al. Intraoperative and postoperative pain in cataract surgery. Surv Ophthalmol. Jan-Feb 2018;63(1):75-85. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.survophthal.2017.07.002 ↩︎
  3. Porela-Tiihonen S et al. A prospective study on postoperative pain after cataract surgery. Clin Ophthalmol. 2013; 7: 1429–1435. https://dx.doi.org/10.2147%2FOPTH.S47576 ↩︎
  4. https://ranzco.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/RANZCO-Cataract-PPP-2016.pdf ↩︎
  5. Clark A et al. Whole population trends in complications of cataract surgery over 22 years in Western Australia. Ophthalmology. 2011 Jun;118(6):1055-61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2010.11.001 ↩︎
  6. NHS. Overview: Cataract surgery [Internet]. [place unknown]: Crown; [date unknown]; [updated 2021; cited 2021 Mar 9]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cataract-surgery/ ↩︎

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

Have a question?

IMPORTANT: If you are concerned about your eyes and require an urgent consultation, DO NOT use this form. Please call one of our clinics during office hours or contact your nearest emergency department.

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