Back to basics – cataract surgery FAQ

Am I awake during cataract surgery?

A local anaesthetic and sedation is used for cataract surgery. Most patients doze during the surgery and are unaware of what is happening around them.

If you are particularly anxious, you can talk to your ophthalmologist and anaesthetist about having a general anaesthetic for cataract surgery.

Is cataract surgery painful?

Because a local anaesthetic and sedation is used, most patients are unaware of what is happening during cataract surgery and do not experience any pain or discomfort. Most patients doze for the operations entirety and are surprised when they are told it is all over. Some mild discomfort may be experienced in the days following cataract surgery. this discomfort should be alleviated with paracetamol.

What are the risks of cataract surgery?

There are risks with any type of surgical procedure, but thankfully the risks involved in cataract surgery are rare. Please talk to your cataract surgeon about the risks involved in cataract surgery.

Can a new cataract form after cataract surgery? 

No. It is impossible for a new cataract to grow in an eye which has undergone cataract surgery where the natural lens of the eye has been removed. It is however, quite common to experience some clouding of the vision after cataract surgery. this clouding can be due to a condition called posterior capsule opacification (PCO) which is caused by the artificial lens rubbing up against the natural lens capsule left behind during cataract surgery. PCO is treated by a simple 5-10 minute laser procedure which is often performed in the ophthalmologists consulting rooms. Pre-testing for cataract surgery

The intraocular lens (IOL) inserted during cataract surgery is a powered lens, meaning that it has magnification or minimisation qualities. This ensures that you will not require thick glasses after cataract surgery. As such, the IOL power required for each eye can be vastly different. Before your cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist will perform a series of highly specialised testing to ensure the correct lens power for your eye is chosen.

You will also be required to have a full dilated eye examination by your ophthalmologist prior to having cataract surgery, to ensure there is no evidence of other eye disease.

Once your ophthalmologist has recommended cataract surgery, you will be required to visit your GP to gain medical clearance. This is to ensure you are healthy enough to proceed with cataract surgery and having an anaesthetic. Your GP may order certain tests like an ECG to look at heart function if there are any concerns.

Do I have a say in the visual outcome of my cataract surgery?

Yes. Modern advances in intra ocular lenses (IOL’s) mean that the post-operative refractive state (how long/short sighted the eye is) can be manipulated to suit the needs of the patient. There are limits to this however, and it is important to have a discussion about this with your ophthalmologist before cataract surgery is performed.

When can I get new glasses after cataract surgery?

It is important to wait until the eye is fully healed before investing in new glasses. We recommend waiting at least 6 weeks after routine cataract surgery before getting tested for new glasses.

Where is cataract surgery performed?

Our cataract surgeons operate at Sydney Eye Hospital through the public hospital system, and privately at Chatswood Private Hospital, Dalcross Private Hospital and Epping Surgery Centre.

How long is recovery after cataract surgery?

You can generally return to normal, light activities 24 hours after cataract surgery. We advise against any strenuous activity such as going to the gym, participating in contact sports, and swimming for at least 2 weeks. Speak to your cataract surgeon about returning to work and driving. Both of these things depend on your occupation and post-operative vision.

When is my second eye operated on?

If your other eye also requires cataract surgery, this is generally performed between 2-6 weeks following the first eye. Your cataract surgeon will advise you when your second eye should be operated on.