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Ophthalmology - Cataract Eye Surgery

Updated on March 19, 2011

What is a Cataract?

Cataract is a term that defines a progressive disorder in which the lens (crystalline) within the eye becomes increasingly clouded. This prevents light from reaching inside the eye, eventually leading to loss of vision

It is a very common condition, occurring mainly in elderly individuals. 


How is Cataract Surgery performed?

Cataract Surgery is currently being performed as an outpatient procedure at most eye clinics. You arrive in the morning, have the procedure done and leave in the afternoon.

The operation itself takes very little time to perform, normally anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes. It is performed entirely under an operating microscope, by an ophthalmologist.

The principle behind cataract surgery is the replacement of the clouded lens with an artificial implant, thus allowing light to enter the eye. Vision is restored provided there aren't any other eye disorders present.

The surgery has 2 major steps:

1. Phacoemulsification

The current method of choice for removing the lens is called phacoemulsification, meaning that the lens is broken into small bits using ultrasound and taken out. This is achieved through a tiny 2.4 millimeter incision.

2. Intraocular lens implantation

In the space where the clouded lens used to be, an artificial lens will be inserted. This is made of silicone or acrylic and can be folded in order to be inserted through the small 2.4 millimeter incision. Besides allowing light to once again enter the eye, the implant can also improve vision. If your eyesight was really bad without glasses before the operation, this artificial lens will slightly improve it.


After the operation, most patients still have to wear glasses because the artificial lens cannot work for both distance viewing and reading. Usually you will need reading glasses. Some newer implants are under development in order to fix this problem, promising full recovery of vision.


In the vast majority of cases, the results are very good, with full recovery unless there are other eye disorders present. A local treatment (eye drops) will be prescribed, usually anti inflammatory drugs and an antibiotic, for a month. Afterwards, the ophthalmologist will prescribe glasses. 

Possible complications

These are very rare with this type of surgery, as the incision is tiny. 

During surgery, excess bleeding may occur and sometimes the procedure can last longer. After the surgery, there is a 1 in 1000 chance of an eye infection and sometimes new clouding behind the artificial implant may occur. These complications are very treatable should they occur. 


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