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Cataract Surgery: Before Your Surgery

A cataract

What is cataract surgery?

Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens of your eye. Your lens is behind the coloured part of your eye (iris). Its job is to focus light onto the back of your eye. In some people, cataracts prevent light from reaching the back of the eye. This can cause vision problems.

Cataract surgery helps you see better. It replaces your natural lens, which has become cloudy, with a clear artificial one.

There are several types of cataract surgery. They include:

  • Phacoemulsification. This is the most common type. The doctor makes a small cut (incision) in your eye. A special ultrasound tool is used to break your cloudy lens apart. Then the small pieces of the lens are removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Most people do not need stitches, because the incision is so small.
  • Extracapsular extraction. This uses a larger incision to remove the lens in one piece. It is replaced with an artificial lens. And the cut is stitched.
  • Femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery (FLACS). This uses laser technology and replaces the natural lens with an artificial lens.

Before surgery, you may be given medicine to help you relax. Medicine will be used to numb your eye. The surgery takes about 20 to 40 minutes. After surgery, you may have a bandage or shield on your eye.

You will probably go home from surgery after 1 hour in the recovery room. You may be able to go back to work or your normal routine in a few days. Most people see better in 1 to 3 days. It could take 3 to 10 weeks for your eye to completely heal. After your eye heals, you may still need to wear glasses, especially for reading.

How do you prepare for surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, ask your doctor if you should stop taking it before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do. These medicines increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance care plan. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
  • The surgery will take about 20 to 40 minutes.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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