Cataract removal is surgery to remove a clouded lens (cataract) from the eye. Cataracts are removed to help you see better. The procedure almost always includes placing an artificial lens (IOL) in the eye.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure. This means you likely do not have to stay overnight at a hospital. The surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist. This is a medical doctor who specializes in eye diseases and eye surgery.
Adults are usually awake for the procedure. Numbing medicine (local anesthesia) is given using eyedrops or a shot. This blocks pain. You will also get medicine to help you relax. Children usually receive general anesthesia. This is medicine that puts them into a deep sleep so that they are unable to feel pain.
The doctor uses a special microscope to view the eye. A small cut (incision) is made in the eye.
The lens is removed in one of the following ways, depending on the type of cataract:
- Phacoemulsification: With this procedure, the doctor uses a tool that produces sound waves to break up the cataract into small pieces. The pieces are then suctioned out. This procedure uses a very small incision.
- Extracapsular extraction: The doctor uses a small tool to remove the cataract in mostly one piece. This procedure uses a larger incision.
- Laser surgery: The doctor guides a machine that uses laser energy to make the incisions and soften the cataract. The rest of the surgery is much like phacoemulsification. Using the laser instead of a knife (scalpel) may speed recovery and be more accurate.
After the cataract is removed, a manmade lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL), is usually placed into the eye to restore the focusing power of the old lens (cataract). It helps improve your vision.
The doctor may close the incision with very small stitches. Usually, a self-sealing (sutureless) method is used. If you have stitches, they may need to be removed later.
The surgery lasts less than half an hour. Most times, just one eye is done. If you have cataracts in both eyes, your doctor may suggest waiting at least 1 to 2 weeks between each surgery.