Cataract Surgery

Every year in the U.S., more than two million cataract surgeries are performed. Cataract surgeries are performed without complication in over 95% of cases. Still, you will likely have questions, fears or reservations about the procedure.

Should I Have Cataract Surgery?

It is your choice to have cataract surgery.

Cataracts will not cause large vision changes for some people. A cataract at the outer edge of your lens, for example, may hardly affect your vision. A cataract at the center of your lens, may greatly affect your sight.

You should only agree to have surgery when you are unable to do all the things you want to do while wearing your glasses. If you decide to have surgery, you and your eye doctor (for cataract surgery, this will be an ophthalmologist or eye MD), must work together as a team.

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the eye. He or she has been trained as an eye surgeon to perform cataract surgery.

You and your eye doctor will determine the best treatment for you—the one you are most comfortable with and the one he or she is best at performing. As you read this guide, note any questions or concerns you may have and discuss them with your eye doctor.

Note: If a cataract keeps an eye doctor from viewing the inside of your eye, he or she may suggest surgery.

Your eye doctor needs to be able to view the inside of your eye to check for eye diseases such as glaucoma and problems of the retina (the innermost part of the eye containing lightsensitive nerve cells).

When Can I Avoid Cataract Surgery?

Prevent Blindness America recommends that individuals do not have cataract surgery if:

  • cataracts have not affected your lifestyle or kept you from doing all the things you want and need to do
  • your vision will not improve with surgery because of other eye problems
  • glasses or contact lenses can provide satisfactory vision
  • you are not well enough/fit enough for the surgery
  • you do not want surgery

What Kind of Lens Will Replace My Cataract Lens?

When the eye surgeon removes your cataract lens, you will need something to replace it so that you can focus and see clearly. You have three choices to replace your own lens.

Learn More

Choosing an Eye Surgeon

Once you decide to have cataract surgery, you'll need to choose an eye surgeon to perform the operation.

Learn More

Getting Ready for Surgery

Removing the cataract and inserting an intraocular lens usually takes the surgeon ten to fifteen minutes. The entire process, from arriving at the hospital or surgical center to going home, takes about half a day. Less than 1% of surgeries require an overnight hospital stay.

Learn More

Types of Cataract Removal

During the cataract operation, your surgeon will first remove the clouded lens. (If you are able to have a lens implant, your doctor will perform this procedure right after removing your cataract lens.) There are several methods for removing the clouded lens.

Learn More

Cost of Surgery

Basic charges you can expect for cataract surgery include fees for the hospital/surgical center, the doctor, the anesthesiologist, basic tests before surgery, medicine after surgery and followup visits with your doctor. Ask your doctor to estimate each of the costs. You may also need new glasses or contact lenses after surgery.

If you have private health insurance or Medicare, it will usually pay for a part of most costs. Try to find out what your health insurance will cover before the surgery. Extra insurance (secondary supplemental insurance) also may cover 80% of the amounts not covered by your primary insurance. You may have to pay 20% of the balance. Ask your doctor about his or her billing and payment methods. Newer “bifocal” IOLs are not usually covered by insurance.

Some hospitals and surgical centers may be able to help you with financial planning. This may include putting together a payment plan or filing claims to your insurance company. Filling out insurance forms can be hard—so be sure to ask questions ahead of time.

Possible Complications from Surgery

Less than 5% of patients experience complications from cataract surgery, but you should discuss possible problems with your doctor. There are three areas of complications.

Learn More

Your Recovery

After surgery, most of the healing takes place in the first few days. But it may take up to 1 month for your eye to fully heal.

Learn More

Follow-up Care

Your doctor will suggest a schedule for follow-up visits. The first one will be the day after your surgery. It is important to keep these appointments to find out whether your eye is healing well. These visits will also let you ask your doctor any questions you have about medicine or your activities (such as heavy lifting or exercising).

Enjoy Better Vision

Your vision will be blurry right after your operation. But each day it will get sharper and clearer. How well you see right after surgery does not necessarily relate to how well you will see later on. But better vision soon after your operation is a good sign.

As your eye heals, you may find yourself seeing better than you have in a while. Everything may seem brighter and clearer. It’s likely that your sight will be almost as good as it was before the cataract developed, but you may still need glasses or contacts for close-up work or distance vision.

After one successful operation, many patients who need a second surgery are less nervous about it and look forward to the day they can view the world clearly, without cataracts.

Don’t be rushed into choosing surgery unless there is a medical emergency that warrants it. You should feel comfortable with your decision. That includes feeling comfortable with your doctor.