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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 two types of cataract surgery.

Phacoemulsification (say "fack-oh-ee-mul-suh-fuh-KAY-shun") is the most common type. The doctor makes a small cut in your eye. This cut is called an incision. The doctor uses a special ultrasound tool to break your cloudy lens apart. Sometimes a laser is used too. Then he or she removes the small pieces of the lens through the incision. In most cases, the doctor then inserts an artificial lens through the incision. Most people do not need stitches, because the incision is so small. If the doctor is not able to put in an artificial lens, you can wear a contact lens or thick glasses in place of your natural lens.

Extracapsular extraction is a less common type of cataract surgery. The doctor makes a larger incision to remove the whole lens at once. After the doctor removes the lens, he or she stitches up the incision. Recovery from this type of surgery takes longer.

Before either surgery, the doctor puts numbing drops in your eye. Some doctors use a shot instead. You may also get medicine to make you feel relaxed. You probably will not feel much pain. 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. Most people see better in 1 to 3 days. You may be able to go back to work or your normal routine in a few 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.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

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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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.