Cataract Surgery for Adults
What is a Cataract?
Just behind the iris, the colored part of the eye, sits the lens of the eye. The lens should be clear. With age, and with certain diseases, the lens becomes frosty or cloudy. Clouding of the lens is called a cataract.
What Can Be Done About Cataracts?
There is no known way to prevent cataracts. There are no drugs that will cure them. If vision loss is severe or keeps you from doing the things you want to do in daily life, the cloudy lens needs to be removed. This is done by outpatient surgery. You will go home the same day. Cataracts cannot be removed by a laser.
What Happens During Surgery?
The surgery is usually done under local anesthetic, meaning that you are awake. Drops are put in the eye to open the pupil. Drugs are given through an I.V. (a needle in the vein of the arm) to relax you. Anesthetic is either applied with drops or through injections that are given near the eye to numb the eye and the skin around it. Most people say that the shots are uncomfortable, but that they feel no pain after that.
A small cut is made in the cornea, or clear part of the front of the eye. The lens is removed by a method called phacoemulsification, where a small ultrasound device is put into the eye through the cut. This will break the lens into tiny pieces, and the pieces are removed by suction.
A plastic lens implant is put into the eye in place of the lens that was removed. The cut on the outside of the eye seals by itself or may be closed with tiny stitches.
After the surgery, a cover may be placed over the eye. The doctor will want to check the eye often, and will prescribe some drops to help healing and prevent infection.
Preparing for Surgery
You need to have a work up visit before the day of surgery. This exam should include a brief physical exam, blood tests, and maybe an EKG (heart tracing) and chest x-ray. The day before surgery, a nurse will call you to tell you when to arrive and give you eating and drinking instructions.
After the Surgery
- Wear the metal eye shield at night and when napping to protect the eye. If you wear glasses, wear them during the day. If not, wear the metal shield. You need to wear the shield for one week. Wearing dark glasses may help the eye feel more comfortable.
- Avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting (over 20 - 30 pounds) until cleared by your doctor. Exercise (like walking) will not harm the eye if done in moderation. Go slowly and do not strain the first week. Depth perception is impaired while wearing an eye patch. Be careful on stairs and do not drive until cleared by your doctor. Sexual activities may be resumed as soon as you are comfortable.
- You may have dull pain, aching, or a scratchy feeling in your eye. Take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for relief. If your pain is not controlled by Tylenol®, call your doctor.
- Please have your eye drop prescriptions filled and use them as instructed.
- You may shower or bathe as usual. Be careful not to get soap into your eyes.
- Watching TV or reading will not harm the eye. You may do so if you wish.
- Most patients receive a new eyeglass prescription about 4 weeks after the surgery. Wear your old glasses until then, even if they make things a little blurry.
Call your doctor right away if you have
- an increase in swelling or redness
- any increase in pain or discharge from the eye
- a decrease in vision
- nausea or vomiting
University Station Eye Clinic, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
When the clinic is closed, your call will be forwarded to the hospital paging operator. Ask for the “Eye Resident on Call”. Give the operator your name and phone number with area code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, call 1-800-323-8942 and ask to be transferred to the above number.
Please call if you have any questions or concerns.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #6581.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/10/2013
Copyright © 07/10/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4205
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