Decision Assist

Cataract removal

Introduction

The purpose of this tool is to help you decide whether cataract surgery is right for you. When making a decision like this, you must balance:

Work with your doctor to help you make this decision. A second opinion from another doctor may be valuable. Surgery always carries risks, and you should be fully informed about the risks and benefits of this type of surgery. You should also be aware that research evidence is often limited, and the risks of surgery may not be completely understood. For this type of surgery, there is usually no exact “right” or “wrong” answer.

Your physician may make certain recommendations to you. However, the final decision about whether to have the surgery rests with you.

What is the surgery?

The lens of the eye is clear in childhood, which allows clear vision. As you get older, the lens gradually changes and your vision usually becomes less clear. A cataract is when the lens develops a cloudiness that causes vision problems. The condition can lead to blurry vision, glare from lights, and blindness.

Cataract

Cataract removal is a procedure to remove a clouded lens from your eye. In most cases, you will receive a new artificial lens in its place, which restores the focusing power of the lens that is removed and enables you to see well without thick glasses.

The surgery is performed in a hospital or in an outpatient setting. For adults, the surgery is usually done without being put to sleep. Drops or an injection are used to prevent any pain. Cataracts in children are not common, but when they occur, the child is typically given general anesthesia. This means they are deep asleep and pain-free.

With the help of a microscope, the doctor makes a small incision. The lens is removed by suction, often with the help of high-frequency sound to assist in making the lens liquid. The artificial lens can be folded and placed through the small incision. The incision may be closed with fine stitches or may be self sealing. If stitches are placed, they may need to be removed at a later date. The surgery typically takes less than an hour.

Normal anatomy
Click the icon to see an illustrated series showing options for cataract surgery.

Key points

How much time this decision tool will take

What this tool will provide


Review Date: 9/12/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

References:
  • Fay A. Diseases of the visual system. Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 449.
  • Allen D, Vasavada A. Cataract and surgery for cataract. BMJ Clinical Evidence. 2006,333(7559):128-32.
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