Cataract removal surgery

We offer the latest surgical techniques to remove cataracts and improve eyesight, helping you to get back to everyday activities.

Sometimes also called

  • Phacoemulsification

At a glance

  • Typical hospital stay
    A few hours

  • Procedure duration
    1 hour

  • Type of anaesthetic

  • Available to self-pay?

  • Covered by health insurance?

Why Spire?

  • Fast access to a wide range of treatments
  • Consultants who are experts in their field
  • Clear pricing with no hidden charges
  • 98% of our patients are likely to recommend us to their family and friends

What is cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery involves replacing a cloudy lens in your eye with a clear artificial lens to improve vision. Cataracts occur when the lens in your eye becomes cloudy causing blurred vision which can impact your everyday activities such as:

  • Working
  • Driving
  • Reading

Cataract surgery is most often carried out on people over 65, although some medical conditions can cause cataracts earlier. It's a very successful treatment to help improve your vision. Some people still need to wear glasses after cataract surgery. It can enable you to resume your everyday activities and improve your quality of life.

What are cataracts?

The lens is a transparent disc that sits behind the coloured part of your eye (iris). It focuses light to the back of your eye (retina) and helps you to see clearly and sharply. As we age, the cells in the lens form cloudy patches – these are called cataracts. The cataracts prevent light getting to the back of your eye and so your vision becomes blurry and cloudy. Usually, cataracts will get worse over time and your consultant may recommend surgery to remove them.

Find your nearest Spire hospital

Most Spire hospitals offer cataract surgery and have teams of ophthalmologists (eye doctors) who specialise in this procedure.

Spire Nottingham Hospital

How cataract surgery works

The surgeon makes a small incision to the front of your eye (cornea) and removes the damaged lens. This is usually done by ultrasound to break up your lens into small fragments to remove it easily (phacoemulsification). A new artificial lens is then inserted. This is known as an intraocular lens (IOL) and is measured for your eye before surgery using a process called biometry. There are different types of intraocular lenses and your consultant will advise which is best for you.

When to have cataract surgery

There's no right time and your consultant will take into account the effect your loss of vision is having on your everyday life. Many patients choose not to wait too long. See your optician or GP for a referral, or find your nearest Spire hospital.

If you have cataracts in both eyes, your consultant will probably recommend you have cataract surgery in one eye at a time, to give it time to heal before having the second eye treated.

Cataract removal surgery

Watch how cataract removal surgery takes place

Your operation: what to expect

How long does cataract surgery take?

Cataract surgery is a relatively straightforward procedure that takes less than one hour and you should be able to go home on the same day.


You'll be given a local anaesthetic either as eye drops or injection during the procedure so you shouldn’t feel anything. Afterwards, there may be some mild discomfort for a few days.

Q & A

Roger McPherson, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

Talking about cataract surgery

Your recovery: what to expect

Recovery time

You may notice the difference in your eyesight almost immediately. However, for many people, vision is blurry for 10 to 14 days after cataract surgery as your eye recovers and adjusts to the new lens. You may also find that your eye aches, is itchy or sticky and may notice some bruising on your eyelid or eye. This should all settle after a few days.

If you have an existing eye condition, side effects may be more likely.

You may still need glasses after cataract surgery if you needed them before. Your consultant will tell you when you can have your eyes tested again – usually after about 6 to 12 weeks.

How long does cataract surgery last?

The intraocular lenses (IOLs) used are designed to last for many years so you shouldn’t need to replace them. A cataract operation should only need to be done once in each eye.

Risks and complications

Most people have cataract surgery without complication, but all surgery carries risk and your consultant will explain this to you before you decide to go ahead.

Cataract surgery complications include:

  • Eye infection
  • Heavy bleeding inside your eye
  • Tearing of the supporting capsule behind the lens
  • Lens dislocation
  • Posterior capsular opacification – when the supporting capsule behind the lens thickens, resulting in reduced vision
  • Retinal detachment

Some people may experience posterior capsule opacification (PCO) many years after cataract surgery. This means that the capsule that holds the lens has become cloudy. Treatment to correct this is usually by laser and is quick and painless to perform.

At Spire hospitals, your safety is our top priority. We have high standards of quality control, equipment and cleanliness and an ongoing system of review and training for our medical teams.

Treatment and recovery timeline

Although everybody’s different and you should always follow your consultant’s advice, here’s a typical recovery timeline for cataract surgery:

View full timeline

1 week

Any eye pain, redness or itching should go

7-14 days

Stop wearing eye shield at night

10-14 days

Clear eyesight restored

4-6 weeks

Fully back to normal

The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.

Get in touch


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