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Frequently Asked Questions About Cataract Surgery (My Experience)

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L. Cargill, Medical Laboratory Scientist, ASCP. Retired blood banker and laboratorian. Loves to write about a wide range of subjects. Enjoy!

A model showing the cross section of an eye

A model showing the cross section of an eye

Will I Go Blind?

Cataracts and cataract surgery do not normally cause blindness. Cataracts are a normal effect of the aging of the eye but can occur due to eye injuries. Cataracts are the result of the eye's lens becoming cloudy. The clouded part of the lens will get more difficult to see through as the cataract grows and hardens

By themselves, cataracts do not generally cause complete blindness. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world of medicine today. Ophthalmic surgeons perform thousands of these procedures daily.

With advanced laser technology, cataract surgery is one of the safest surgeries one can have. Both regular and laser surgery only take minutes to perform, general anesthesia is extremely rare, and recovery after surgery is almost instantaneous. There is a six to eight-week total recovery time, but your vision will improve the second the new lens is inserted.

An Eye Exam is the First Step

An Eye Exam is the First Step

How Do I Know if I Have a Cataract?

A regular eye exam by an optometrist will detect cataracts in your eye. They will refer you to a specialist for evaluation and possible surgery.

Cataract Symptoms

  • Clouded vision
  • Difficulty with night vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Seeing halos
  • Yellowing of colors

The first step in cataract surgery is a typical eye exam by an ophthalmologist with special training in treating disorders of the eye. Typically, they spend an extra three years after medical school learning how to treat diseases and conditions of the eyes. Most ophthalmic surgeons will have experience doing thousands of cataract surgeries.

This eye exam will thoroughly document the cataract if present. Your eyes will be 'dilated' with special eye drops. More drops will be used to anesthetize the eye so more measurements can be taken, such as the pressure inside of your eye (glaucoma evaluation). They will document your vision, the size and hardness of the cataract, the basic measurements of your eye, and how good your vision is.

It is recommended that someone drive you to the specialist's office as it is difficult to drive after the dilation drops are put in your eyes.

After this initial evaluation, the eye surgeon will recommend for or against cataract surgery and discuss with you how to proceed. The surgeon can implant regular lenses, multifocal lenses, or lenses that correct for astigmatism. He or she will also discuss the costs associated with each type of procedure.

What Your Eye Surgeon Needs To Know

Your eye surgeon, or assistant, will fill out a complete medical history on every cataract surgery patient. You will need to provide a medication list of everything you take on a daily or as-needed basis.

Make a list of all the medications you take with the name, date of Rx, dosage, and frequency. Don't forget to list over-the-counter vitamins and supplements also. Remember to include your pharmacy's phone numbers.

Make a list of every surgery. Include dates and reasons for the surgeries. List all of your doctor's names, addresses, and phone numbers.

Tell your doctor how well you would like to see going forward, and what distance is most important for you to see best. If you drive a lot, distance vision will probably be most important. Mid-distance sight is best for watching TV or seeing across a classroom. Near distance vision is best for those who read a lot.

You will also need to provide your medical insurance information to the surgeon's office as well as the surgery center where the operation will be done. It's possible that these may be the same place.

Will Cataract Surgery Hurt?

I can tell you from experience that none of the eye exams hurt. The surgery itself does have some slightly painful pressure, and the intravenous line insertion is almost always the most painful thing associated with cataract surgery.

Be sure to tell your anesthesiologist if you are a red-haired person! Apparently, redheads have a very high tolerance to most anesthesia and usually require stronger doses of fentanyl and/or Versed. (pronounced Ver-Sed).

Patients are awake and aware of the surgery as general anesthesia is not normally used. You will actually be able to see what is happening. If the anesthesia is just right, all you will remember is a bright light and your surgeon will be telling you to "look at the light".

However, the actual surgery only takes an average of eight minutes and you can tolerate anything for eight minutes. At least that is what the nurses will tell you!

It is scary, especially the first time, but it isn't really painful, so just relax and take some deep calming breaths of the oxygen that they give you during the procedure.

Before you know it, you are out the door and on your way home. Your eye is still dilated, but you will notice that you can now see through your brand new permanent lens!

Your eye will be slightly swollen and painful for a few days. You will have to sleep with an eye protector taped over the eye to keep you from rubbing it for a week. I also had a headache, so I did take some pain pills. Ask your doctor's advice on what to take for post-op pain.

Eye Drop Schedule for Cataracts

Eye Drop Schedule for Cataracts

Eyedrops and Care Before, During, and After Cataract Surgery

Your eye surgeon will provide prescription eye drops to use before, on the day of, and after surgery. It is very important to follow this schedule for the full amount of time indicated. Do not stop taking your drops until you are told to do so.

You will receive an eye exam about a week prior to the surgery. At this visit, the doctor will either give you the drops or the prescription for the drops. These medications must be started before the surgery in order to clear out any microbes that may be residing in your eye. This is normal for everyone.

The surgery center will call you the day before surgery and give you pre-op instructions. You must be fasting, no food or drink after midnight the night and morning before your surgery. You will be allowed to take some of your regular medications, but not all of them. They will go over these with you. Write these instructions down!

Pre-Cataract Surgery

When you arrive at the center, you will be given a gown and cap to wear and it may be possible to wear the gown over your regular clothes. Don't wear anything with metal in it.

The surgical assistants will take your vital signs, start numbing drops in your eye, start an I.V. line for the anesthesiologist, and answer any questions you may still have.

The anesthesiologist will visit with you and take notes. He or she will decide what type of anesthesia you will need and the dosage.

After a short wait, you will be wheeled back to the surgical suite and the assistants will get you ready on the table. The anesthesiologist will administer his cocktail of drugs.

During Surgery

The most disturbing part comes when your surgeon stands over you and starts to tape your head down to the table. Your head will be completely immovable! Then he or she will place some sort of tape over your eye to keep it open and you will not be able to blink.

By this time, the drugs should take effect and you should be relaxed and no longer anxious. There is also some oxygen for you to breathe to make you more comfortable, so take slow, deep breaths.

You will see a very bright light in your operative eye! I saw three square dots also, and I do not know what these are. I also had standard surgery, not laser surgery, so I cannot describe what the laser would look like.

After a bit of pressure here and there, the surgery is over and you can see things immediately after the new lens is implanted! There will be a bright light shadow (like looking at the sun too long) for a few days, this will eventually clear up.

Then you will have another brief bout of pain when the tape is removed. This really is like ripping a band-aid off rapidly! But it only lasts a few seconds.


Next, you are back in the waiting room getting everything removed - the gown, hat, booties, I.V. line, and then out the door you go! You will be given a pair of dark sunglasses to wear and a kit with your eye guard and tape to stick it down with.

You will also get post-op instructions. Do read and follow them! It's important.

What Happens After Cataract Surgery?

You will be hungry, so it's ok to go eat something. Make it a light meal though. You may have a headache and/or an upset tummy. The nurse did give me an antacid before the surgery. I think that's to make sure you don't throw up during the procedure.

You will not be able to see well for a few days. It may give you a headache to watch TV or read. But it is possible to drive with the dark sunglasses on. I drove to the first post-op visit the next day after surgery. They will check your vision and make sure the surgery went well.

Don't forget to put your eye protector in place when you sleep. Even if you are just taking a nap. You might forget and rub your eye! This is a big no-no.

When you take a shower or bath, you must try not to get water in your eye. Bathwater is not clean enough for your eyes.

Very important! Don't forget to use your eye drops! These drops will help your eye heal, prevent swelling, and prevent infections. One of the eye drops is very thick, but don't forget it because that is the anti-biotic one!

After a week, you will visit the eye doctor again and he or she will release you from restrictions and give your new post-op orders. No, you probably don't get to stop the drops! If you work, you should get a release to go back to work at this time.

After a month goes by, you will see the doctor again. He or she may make some adjustments to the lens by using a laser in the office. No special preparation is needed, but they will probably dilate that eye again.

After six weeks, you are probably well healed and can go about your normal day.

If you have cataracts in both eyes, the doctor will set you up for the second eye surgery which will be almost identical to the first one. At least you will know what to expect.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Lela

Comments - If you have had cataract surgery, please estimate the cost in your comments, thank you!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on August 21, 2016:

I have both eyes done now too. There are some distances that don't work well, but it is great not having to wear glasses or contacts!

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on August 20, 2016:

Austinstar, wonderful hub for anyone who is scared of having the surgery. I had both eyes done and am pleased with the results, no more glasses or contacts.

jonnycomelately on July 09, 2016:

Eye eye, Ma'm.

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on July 09, 2016:

Glenn and JCL - Everyone's eyes are unique and different things happen to us all the time. Thanks for sharing your stories and it looks like you guys are in good opthalmic hands!

jonnycomelately on July 09, 2016:

HI again. I had my annual checkup one week ago.

There had been a little bit of change in the lens capsule in my right eye. I had not noticed this specifically, but the doctor told me this was causing a slight deterioration in my vision... slight loss of focus.

This was "sorted" for me within a few minutes. Using a laser, the slight thickening in the capsule was removed. Easy, painless, no bother at all in the procedure. It has taken a few days for me to "get used to" the change, in the same way you might need to get used to a new set of spectacles. But now, back to normal.

I still use glasses. The lower half of the lenses are set for reading, in the multi-focal format. The upper part of each lens is zero-correction, i.e., just plain see-through. I have worn glasses since I was 9 years old, so it's something you get used to. But this means I don't have to search for reading glasses all the time, they are always in place. Occasionally I'll remove them while driving... it's just awesome that I can!

Next time I get a pair, I think I'll get bi-focals instead: the multi-focal format causes some annoying distortions sometimes, especially when walking down a rocky hill side.

I hope this feed-back is of use to you.

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on July 09, 2016:

I am at the beginning stages of cataract developing and my ophthalmologist said I'm a few years away from needing surgery. He said it may suddenly progress quickly and I may need surgery sooner rather than later. So at this time I'm educating myself about the procedure and I found your article extremely helpful.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on July 11, 2015:

I have cataracts. My eye doctor discovered them maybe 10 years ago. they are small and have not grown, so no surgery yet. Thanks for letting me know what to expect if the surgery should become necessary. Voted up ++

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on June 18, 2015:

It is a great feeling to be a le to see like you are supposed to again! Thanks for sharing your experience! Here's looking at you, kid....

jonnycomelately on June 18, 2015:

Lela, this is very topical. I had both my eyes done less 2-3 weeks ago. Excellent results.

The most wonderful benefit I have experienced is being able to see all colours of the rainbow.

As an examply, the gas flame under my kettle: when only one eye had been done, the un-operated eye could see only a greyish blue flame. The operated eye could see violet, reds, glorious technicolor flame. Beautiful.

Then, after the second op. and with both eye protectors removed, I went for a walk..... beautiful sunny morning, seeing all the wonderful colours, seeing the sharp horizon of nearby hill-tops, the clouds, the trees, yachts on the basin.... What a wonderful technology with all the patient and careful science performed by so many people. I am really grateful.

It's 3 weeks to my final check up, but already happy to have "taken the plunge!"

Oh... and getting my driver's licence renewed without the conditional of wearing glasses. Having worn glasses for 0ver 60 years of my life!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on June 02, 2015:

Hey drbj and Yoleen - I think both of you will like seeing my latest hub, how to serve man. It's our favorite hunk, dwayne johnson!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on June 02, 2015:

I went to renew my driver's license and couldn't pass the vision test so I had cataract surgery on both eyes and can now see that fly on a telephone pole 6 blocks away. Well, maybe only 3 blocks away, but my vision now is perfect. Without glasses.

This is excellent info, Lela, for those who may have been hesitating to have this needed surgery.

Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on June 02, 2015:

My eyes are sensitive to eye exams, so the doctor put me unser for the surgery. It lasted just under 20 minutes. I don't remember a bit of it.

On the contrary, I understand John Denver's father not only refused painkilliers, but held his eye open for the doctor!

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on May 30, 2015:

I had both eyes done (months apart). My vision is back to 20-20 or better without glasses, except for close up. I still need reading glasses.

Good Hub, Lela!