Around 200,000 cataract operations are performed in the UK each year.* Many of our patients want to be treated as quickly as possible; at Spire Shawfair Park Hospital, your eye operation will usually be carried out as a day-case procedure under local or general anaesthetic.
What is cataract removal?
Cataract removal involves taking out the cloudy lens in your eye and replacing it with a clear, artificial implant to restore your vision. The cataract removal procedure most commonly performed is known as phacoemulsification.
Cataract removal is usually carried out as a day-case under a local anaesthetic. This means you stay awake during the cataract operation but your eye will be completely numb. You may be offered a sedative to help you relax during the procedure.
Your surgeon will explain the benefits and risks of cataract removal, and will also discuss the alternatives to the procedure. Cataracts typically occur in both eyes, but they are usually treated one at a time.
Before the operation
Before the cataract operation, eye drops are given to dilate (widen) the pupil. This makes it easier for the surgeon to see the lens of the eye. You won’t be able to see out of the eye during treatment, but you may be aware of some light and movement. This is normal, and to be expected.
During the cataract removal operation
You will be asked to lie in a reclined position in a special chair. Local anaesthetic eye drops will be put into your eye to gently numb the outer surface. A local anaesthetic injection into the area around the eye may also be used.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your surgeon will make a tiny cut on the surface of your eye and use ultrasound energy to break up the cloudy lens. The fragments are removed with a fine tube and a new lens is inserted. This usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.
After cataract surgery
Afterwards, your eye may be covered with a protective pad which you may need to wear for a few hours. It is normal to have an itchy or sticky eye and blurry vision for a few days afterwards. Your eye may also ache, but this generally settles down within 10 to 14 days. There is a slight possibility that your eyelid or eye will be bruised, but again this should settle over a few days.
How safe is cataract removal?
Cataract removal is commonly performed, however all operations carry risks as well as benefits.
Possible complications of cataract surgery are listed below – in rare cases these can lead to reduced vision or blindness.
- Heavy bleeding inside your eye. This may require further surgery.
- Infection of the eye. This may require antibiotic treatment.
- Tearing of the supporting capsule behind the lens.
- Lens dislocation. This may require further surgery.
- Posterior capsular opacification – when the supporting capsule behind the lens thickens, resulting in reduced vision. The condition develops in up to one in five people within five years of the operation. Simple laser treatment can be used to correct this.
The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. Your surgeon will explain in more detail how any risks apply to you.
* Source: AgeUK