Prior to the cataract surgery procedure, you need to find a specialist eye doctor—an ophthalmic surgeon or an ophthalmologist—for an assessment. This specialist will then assess not only your eyes but also your general health, checking for any other condition that might be affecting your eyesight. Measurements of your eyes will then be taken to the clinic to assess the artificial lens strength needed to replace your natural lens. During this visit, discuss the cataract surgery procedure with your doctor in detail. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions. Do note that if cataracts affect both eyes, you will undergo two separate operations (typically done 1.5 to 3 months apart). This allows the first eye to heal and your vision to return.
The Actual Cataract Surgery Procedure
Cataract surgery is a relatively straightforward procedure and is quite common. It takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, carried out under local anaesthetic. You will be conscious during the procedure and will be allowed to go home on the very same day.
Phacoemulsification is the most common technique used for cataract surgery. Before the operation, drops are put in your eye to dilate the pupil. Local anaesthetics are also administered usually as eye drops or as an injection into tissues that surround the eye.
The surgeon then makes a tiny incision in the cornea. A small probe emitting ultrasound waves is then inserted through the cornea and into the eye. This breaks the affected lens into tiny pieces that are liquefied and sucked out by a second probe. Once the affected cloudy lens is completely removed, the surgeon inserts a replacement artificial plastic lens in its place by injecting it through the cut in your cornea. It is inserted folded, and then unfolds by itself to adopt the position of your old, natural lens. In some cases, the eye surgeon may need to make a slightly larger cut to replace the old lens. This cut then needs to be stitched (and the stitches are removed several weeks after the surgery).
Most patients are allowed to go home just a few hours after cataract surgery. Please be sure that someone can take you home, as you will likely have a pad over your eye. Have a friend or family member take care of you for at least 24 hours after surgery, especially if you have poor eyesight in your other eye. Expect some discomfort in and around the operated eye after the surgical procedure. This should improve after a few days. Complications are rare. However, if you do experience vision loss or increasing pain at any point, contact the hospital as soon as possible.