Laser Vision SA Reception Area

FAQ - Cataracts

  • When should cataract surgery take place?

    Cataract surgery has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life so it is important not to delay having the operation for inappropriate reasons.

    Nobody should delay surgery because of fear of the operation or because they have heard stories from friends which disturb them. It is appropriate to delay if you do not think the cataract is ready. Your eyecare professional will help you to assess this.

    The sort of comments people make which lead them to have cataract surgery include:

    • I am afraid of going to unfamiliar places because I worry that I may have a fall.
    • I have stopped driving at night because the lights worry me.
    • My eyesight bothers me a lot.
    • I am having difficulty playing sport (eg bowls).
    • I am having problems reading and sewing.


  • How successful is cataract surgery?

    Modern cataract surgery has an overall success rate of around 98%. The wonderful improvements in the operation which have been made over the last 20 years have made it possible for far more people to undergo safe surgery. It is no longer necessary to spend long periods convalescing after the operation and the likelihood of complications is now lower than ever before.

    You should however remember that no surgery is risk free but serious complications do not occur frequently. When they do it is possible for the result to be a loss of vision. Your doctor will discuss this with you prior to you deciding on surgery. These are some of the serious complications that can occur. They include elevation of eye pressure, bleeding inside the eye, infection inside the eye, retinal problems such as detachment and swelling, clouding of the cornea and drooping of the upper lid. Blindness can result from some of these and it is possible to lose the eye. It is possible to lose the eye all together but this is very rare at approximately 1 in 5,000 surgeries. The likelihood of a really serious complication leading to major loss of vision is about 3 chances in 1,000.

  • How quickly do cataracts develop?

    In some people it can take years before the cataract is bad enough to need an operation, whilst others can go almost completely blind in six months. In patients who are young or have diabetes, cataracts usually progress more quickly. It is difficult to predict how fast the progression will be in a particular person.

  • Can cataracts come back?

    No, the cataract cannot regrow. However, quite frequently the posterior capsule becomes opaque and needs to be divided with the YAG laser. This also only occurs once, so you will not need to have this done again.

  • How long will I have to wait before I have the other eye done?

    There is no set interval between operations. Sometimes the second operation is done a few days later and in other cases it is several years. The only thing that is definite is that two eyes are not done at the same time.

  • Why did my friend have laser after the cataract operation?

    The implant is placed inside the empty capsular bag during the operation. The back or posterior part of the bag is clear at this time. It is called the posterior capsule. In about 30 to 50% of eyes the posterior capsule becomes milky and opaque after a year or two. This opaque membrane is divided using a laser beam. This type of laser is called a YAG laser. The procedure is very simple and completely painless. Complications from it are rare but include floaters and retinal problems.

  • Will I need to wear glasses after the operation?

    When you have the cataract removed an IOL implant or small plastic lens is placed in the eye, this focuses the light and in most cases this will mean that you will not need glasses for distance work. You will need glasses for reading. Years ago thick glasses or contact lenses were necessary after cataract surgery, these are no longer needed because implants afford far superior post-operative correction.

  • What happens if I have a problem?

    If unexpected events occur at the time of surgery or develop after the operation the ophthalmologist will discuss the particular implications of the problem with you. He will help to formulate a specific treatment plan to cope with your problem. In most cases a good result is still possible.

  • How is cataract surgery performed

    The most common type of cataract surgery, known as “phacoemulsification”, or phaco for short, uses ultrasound to break up the cataract into a fine powder called “emulsificate”. This is flushed out of the eye with a special fluid (BSS). An intraocular lens (IOL) is then inserted to where the cataract previously existed within the eye.  Almost all patients do think their surgery was performed using a laser. This was very popular perhaps 5 years ago. However the long terms studies now available have not found enough advantage to justify the significant additional cost of a laser procedure due to the high purchase, use and maintenance costs of the laser.

  • Side Effects of Cataract Surgery

    As we use no needles and no injections around the eye the only side effects from the procedure’s anaesthetic are a little drowsiness. This is why we say no driving or major decisions for 24 hours after the sedation. Side effects from cataract surgery itself, though rare, are covered in our informed consent.