Topic Overview

How bad does my vision need to be before I consider surgery?

  • If your vision is 20/50 (20/20 is normal) or
    worse because of a
    cataract, you may benefit from surgery.
  • If your vision is 20/40 and you have severe glare problems or require good
    vision for work (for example, you drive for a living), surgery may help you.
    But eyeglasses may also help. You may want to consider trying glasses
    before having surgery.
  • If your vision is 20/40 or worse, have your
    eyeglass prescription checked. And consider surgery only if eyeglasses fail to

Where should I go for surgery?

  • The most important factor to consider is the
    skill and experience of your eye surgeon. If you need a recommendation for a surgeon, talk with your family doctor or
  • Try to
    choose a convenient location. Then you can easily get follow-up eye exams and
    be seen if you have problems.

Which procedure will be done and why?

  • Phacoemulsification (small incision surgery) is the most commonly performed type of cataract surgery. The surgeon uses ultrasound to break up the cloudy lens.

    Other types of surgery are usually
    reserved for special situations.

  • Ask your surgeon how experienced he or she is with the procedure. Ask if he or she will use a laser during part of the surgery. Also find out how many
    procedures the surgeon has done and what the outcomes were.
  • Phacoemulsification has the highest success

What type of anesthesia is planned?

Cataract surgery in otherwise healthy people can usually be done on
an outpatient basis with local anesthesia or topical anesthetic eyedrops.
(General anesthesia is only needed for a few people.)

What type of lens replacement is best?

  • Lenses that are placed inside the eye during
    surgery (intraocular lenses, or IOLs) are used in many cataract
    surgeries for adults and children. They help you depend on glasses less. The doctor may wait until a child is 1 to 2 years old before using an IOL.
  • Ask your doctor about the different types of lenses and what would be best for you. Some types may cost more than others.
  • Contact lenses placed on the eye’s surface are an option. But
    they may be difficult for older adults and young children to use. Contact
    lenses are used after cataract surgery in children younger than age
  • Thick cataract glasses were used in the past. They are not
    used very often now that IOLs are available.

What should I do if I have cataracts in both eyes?

  • For adults, the reason to have cataract
    surgery on the second eye are the same as for the first eye. The reason is that vision loss caused
    by the cataract is interfering with your daily activities and adversely
    affecting the quality of your life.
  • Cataract surgery is usually not
    done on both eyes at the same time in older adults. Discuss with your doctor
    how long you need to wait after the first surgery before you can have cataract
    surgery on your other eye.
  • Most people will have the second
    cataract surgery 2 to 4 weeks after the first surgery.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Carol L. Karp, MD – Ophthalmology

Current as ofMarch 3, 2017