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While cataract surgery does not involve a significant amount of pain, medications are used to maximize your comfort. The actual removal of the clouded lens will take approximately 20-30 minutes in most instances. During the actual procedure, there will be several people in the operating room in addition to your ophthalmologist; these include anesthesiologists and operating-room nurses and technicians.
After leaving the operating room, you will be brought to a recovery room where your doctor will prescribe several eye drops that you will need to take for a few weeks postoperatively. While you may notice some discomfort, most patients do not experience significant pain following surgery; if you do you experience decreasing vision or significant pain, you should contact your ophthalmologist immediately. Depending on the type of anesthesia used, you may or may not have a patch on your eye that will remain in place for the first day and night after surgery.
While cataract surgery is one of the safest procedures available with a high rate of success, rare complications can arise. Your ophthalmologist will discuss the specific potential complications of the procedure that are unique to your eye prior to having you sign a consent form. The most common difficulties arising after surgery are persistent inflammation, changes in eye pressure, infection, or swelling of the retina at the back of the eye, and retinal detachment. If the delicate bag the lens sits in is injured, then the artificial lens may need to be placed in a different location. In very rare cases, the intraocular lens moves or does not function properly and may need to be repositioned, exchanged, or removed. All of these complications are extremely rare but can lead to significant visual loss if left untreated; thus, close follow-up is required after surgery.
Following surgery, you will need to return for visits within the first few days and again within the first few weeks after surgery to assure your eye is healing properly. During this time period, you will be using several eye drops which help protect against infection and inflammation, and you will have some restrictions on activities such as lifting heavy objects and bending forward or stooping to the ground. Within several days, most people notice that their vision is improving, and they are able to return to work. During the several office visits that follow, your doctor will monitor for complications, and once vision has stabilized, will fit you with glasses if needed. The type of intraocular lens you have implanted will determine to some extent the type of glasses required for optimal vision.
For more information, read our full medical article on cataracts
Medically reviewed by William Baer, MD; Board Certified Ophthalmology
"Cataract in adults"