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How cataract surgery works

Posted on: 05 September 2019 by 50connect editorial

This preventable eye condition is accountable for 51% of the world’s blindness. It’s a shocking statistic, but the rate of avoidable sight loss is on the rise.

Cataract surgery

Here, one of the UKs most trusted vision correction specialists, Ultralase Eye Clinics Ltd, explains just what happens during cataract removal surgery.   

What is a cataract?

Before we explore the ins and outs of cataract surgery, it might be helpful to explain a little more about the condition itself.

A cataract is an eye condition, in which the eyes lens becomes cloudy. It’s a progressive eye disease, which if left untreated will continue to develop until it completely impairs vision. Imagine looking through a frosted glass window- this is how life looks for someone who has a cataract.

Other than the obvious clouding of the lens, common symptoms that accompany a cataract include decreased colour distinction, night glare, halos around lights, sensitivity to light and double vision.

Generally speaking a cataract will only affect one eye, however it can affect both at the same time. A cataract will begin to develop either in the middle of vision or around the edges and slowly grow in size.

As for the reason behind it, age is the most common cause. A staggering 30% of people aged 60 and over are affected by the condition in the UK. Other contributing factors include diabetes, smoking, genetics and pro-longed exposure to ultraviolet light.  

A cataract can easily be diagnosed during a routine eye examination. Don’t forget to attend yours at least once every two years.

How is a cataract removed?

Unlike other eye conditions such as long-sightedness or presbyopia, a cataract can only be treated with surgery.

Cataract removal is more commonly known as Lens Replacement Surgery. It’s the single most commonly performed procedure in the world and also effective for correcting long-sightedness, short-sightedness, presbyopia and astigmatism.

It’s a simple procedure, which is performed under local anaesthetic. Prior to surgery the affected eye is numbed and dilated- no pain is felt during the procedure.

Once the eye is fully anaesthetised, the surgeon will carefully create a small incision around the cornea. This creates an entrance for ultrasound energy to be applied.

Ultrasound energy is the method used to break up and remove the affected lens.

The artificial lens is then gently placed inside the eye. These are designed to last a lifetime and will not need replacing. A cataract cannot grow back once the natural lens is removed.   

This entire process can take as little as ten minutes per eye; depending on how advanced the cataract has progressed. The longer a cataract is left the more complex the removal.

So, once the surgery is over an aftercare package will be provided. This will include eye drops which should be used exactly as directed by the surgeon. This is to avoid discomfort and infection following surgery.

Choosing the right lens for you

There are two types of lenses that can be inserted during lens replacement.

  1. Monofocal Lens. A monofocal lens will correct either close or distance vision. This means that glasses will still be required for certain activities and is the only lens option offered to NHS patients.


  1. Multifocal Lens. A multifocal lens is the preferred choice for patients who choose private eye care.

The big advantage to a multifocal lens is its ability to correct near, intermediate and distance vision at once; ultimately eliminating reliance on glasses.

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