Surgery – How is cataract surgery performed?

Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed in the UK today, with hundreds of thousands of surgeries carried out every year. It’s one of the safest and most straightforward surgeries you can have. 

Cataracts lead to your eye’s natural lens becoming cloudy, which causes your vision to get progressively worse over time. During cataract surgery, the eye’s natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens (also referred to as an intraocular lens/IOL). 

Cataract surgery is typically performed using a quick and simple method called phacoemulsification, where the surgeon makes a small incision in your eye and uses a special ultrasound device to break the lens of your eye into small pieces, which can then be removed. 

Once your natural lens has been completely removed and your replacement lens has been inserted, the surgeon will close the incision. A transparent protective shield will then be placed over your eye to stop anything like dust or grit getting into the eye while it heals. 

Cataract surgery isn’t painful as it’s carried out under local anaesthetic, which means you’ll be awake during the procedure. Your eyes are numbed using eye drops, so don’t worry – there are no needles or injections involved. 

Your appointment will usually last for 3 hours, although cataract surgery itself rarely takes more than twenty minutes. The rest of the time is set aside to allow your anaesthetic eye drops to take effect and your eye to fully dilate prior to surgery. You’ll also see a nurse after your surgery, who will talk you through how to take care of your eye while it heals. You won’t need to stay overnight in the hospital, and you’ll usually be able to go home an hour after your surgery. The healing process usually takes around four-six weeks. 

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