Cataract surgery involves replacing the cloudy lens inside your eye with an artificial one.
It’s the most common operation performed in the UK, with a high success rate in improving your eyesight.
Cataract surgery is a straightforward procedure that usually takes 30 to 45 minutes.
It’s often carried out as day surgery under local anaesthetic and you should be able to go home on the same day.
During the operation, a tiny incision is made to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear plastic one.
With the NHS, you will usually be offered monofocal lenses, which have a single point of focus. This means the lens will be fixed for either near or distance vision, but not both.
If you go private, you may be able to choose either a multifocal or an accommodating lens, depending on your eye, which allow the eye to focus on both near and distant objects.
Most people will need to wear glasses for some tasks, like reading, after surgery regardless of the type of lens they have fitted.
If you have cataracts in both eyes, you will need two separate operations, usually carried out a few weeks apart.
This will give the first eye to be treated time to heal and your vision time to return.
Benefits of cataract surgery
After cataract surgery you should be able to:
- see things in focus
- look into bright lights and not see as much glare
- tell the difference between colours
If you have another condition affecting your eyes, such as diabetes or glaucoma, you may still have limited vision, even after successful surgery.
Risks of cataract surgery
The risk of serious complications developing as a result of cataract surgery is very low.
Most common complications can be treated with medicines or further surgery.
There is a very small risk – around 1 in 1,000 – of permanent sight loss in the treated eye as a direct result of the operation.
Types of glaucoma surgery include:
- trabeculectomy – the most common type of operation, it involves removing part of the eye drainage tubes to allow fluid to drain more easily
- trabecular tube bypass – an operation to place a tube into your eye to increase the drainage of fluid
- Micro-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGs)
- iStent implant – an operation to place a tiny tube into your eye to increase the drainage of fluid
- Cypass implant – an operation to place a tiny tube into your eye to increase the drainage of fluid
- Xen implant – an operation to place a tiny tube into your eye to increase the drainage of fluid
Glaucoma surgery may be carried out under local anaesthetic (where you’re awake) or general anaesthetic (where you’re asleep).
If eye drops don’t improve your symptoms, laser treatment may be recommended.
This is where a high-energy beam of light is carefully aimed at part of your eye, to stop fluid building up inside it.
Types of laser treatment include:
- laser trabeculoplasty – a laser is used to open up the drainage tubes within your eye, which allows more fluid to drain out of your eye and reduces the pressure inside it
- cyclodiode laser treatment – a laser is used to destroy some of the tissue in the eye that produces the liquid inside the eye, which can reduce pressure in the eye
- laser iridotomy – a laser is used to create holes in your iris (coloured part of the eye) to allow fluid to drain from your eye
Laser treatment is usually carried out while you’re awake. Local anaesthetic drops are used to numb your eyes, although you may feel a brief twinge of pain or heat during the procedure.
You may still need to use eye drops after having laser treatment.