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Common Questions about Cataract Surgery

Below are some of the questions we frequently receive concerning cataracts. The answers below should address most of the queries that you might have.

If you don't find the answer to your question, please do not hesitate to call us, or send us an e-mail.

Q: Are both eyes operated on the same day?

A: No, only one eye is operated at a time, due to the potential risk of infection. Typically, there is a 2 week period between the 2 procedures.

Q: Will I have to stay over at the hospital?

A: No, although you are admitted to the hospital, the procedure is done on an outpatient basis. You are admitted for approximately 3 to 4 hours, after which you are discharged from the hospital the same day.

Q: When do I need to see the Doctor for a follow up?

A: You will need to come in for two follow-up consultations per eye operation. The first follow-up is the next day after the operation and the second is usually scheduled for the following week.

Q: When will I be able to see?

A: Although most patients perceive their vision to be better the day after the surgery, in some cases your vision might be blurry, depending on the type and severity of cataract that was removed. After a week, once the inflammation has subsided and the eye has largely recovered, the vision starts to clear. Most patients would gain their normal post-operative vision by 3 to 4 weeks after the surgery.

Q: Is it possible for the cataract to grow again?

A: A cataract is an opacification of the natural lens. During a cataract operation, the defective lens is removed and replaced by an artificial lens. It is therefore not possible to develop another cataract, since the natural lens is removed by the operation. However, in a small percentage of eyes, the implanted lens may induce scarring of the membrane onto which it was placed in the eye, leading to a so-called 'secondary' cataract. This is easily treated by a non-invasive procedure known as a 'YAG capsulotomy'. This means that we use a special laser in our consulting rooms to remove this scarring, which thus restores your vision. It is a quick and painless procedure. If you experience misty vision after a cataract surgery, it is advisable to come in for a follow up so that we may verify the status of the implanted lens.

Q: Will I be awake during the operation?

A: Yes, most probably so. Today the trend is to do most cataract surgeries under local anaesthetic. This entails two components, namely:
  • The application of a powerful anaesthetic eye drop that numbs the eye and keeps you from feeling pain, and
  • A systemic sedative which is given to relax the patient
  • Q: What happens if I leave the cataract untreated?

    A: If it is left untreated, the natural course is that the cataract will continue to grow and may result in treatable blindness in severe cases. The rate at which it grows/worsens is dependent on a range of factors.

    Q: How will I know which lens implant is the right one for me?

    A: This is a personal choice as it is dependent on your lifestyle and your daily visual requirements. The Doctor will discuss the various options available to you on the day that you come in for your pre-operative cataract assessment.

    Q: When is the right time to have a cataract removed?

    A: The right time to remove a cataract depends on when it starts affecting your vision and lifestyle. Many people think that you should wait for the cataract to 'ripen' but this is not true. When your vision becomes impaired to such a level that you are not able to maintain the lifestyle you are used to, it is time to have the cataract removed.

    Q: How long after surgery can I start wearing makeup?

    A: We recommend that you wait approximately 1 week before wearing makeup. This is to minimise the risk for infection.

    Q: Will I experience pain after the surgery?

    A: No, but there may be slight discomfort with a scratchy sensation. This should clear within a day.

    Q: When can I have my glasses updated?

    A: We recommend a waiting period of 3 to 4 weeks after the surgery.

    Q: Can I drive home after the surgery?

    A: No, this is not recommended as the operated eye is patched and your reactions are slowed due to the sedation that we administer in theatre.

    Q: Will I get stitches?

    A: Usually not, as the incision is very small and therefore do not require stitches.

    Q: How long must the eye remain covered?

    A: The eye should remain covered for the day of the surgery. It must only be opened to clean the eye and to administer the drops.

    Q: When can I go back to work?

    A: This varies and is dependent on the patient. You may return to work as soon as day two after the surgery, depending on the type of work you do.

    Q: When will I be allowed to drive again?

    A: As soon as your vision meets the minimum legal requirements for driving. Please ask the doctor or your optometrist whether you qualify.