There are two types of
cataract surgery. They are both done in an
outpatient center. The decision about which
one to use depends on what kind of cataract you have and how much experience
the surgeon has with each type of surgery.
Phacoemulsification (small-incision surgery). In this type of surgery, the
incisions are small, and sound waves (ultrasound) are used to break up the lens
into small pieces. This is the most common method of doing cataract
Standard extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE). In this type of surgery,
the lens and the front portion of the lens capsule wrapped
around the lens is opened. The lens is then carefully removed in one piece.
In the past, cataracts were removed by
intracapsular surgery in which the entire lens and
lens capsule were removed. Intracapsular surgery is rarely, if ever, used
today. It is more difficult and has a higher rate of complications than
The most common problem after cataract surgery is clouding of the posterior lens capsule
(called aftercataract) within 5 years after surgery. This clouding is
usually not a serious problem. And it is easy to treat with a laser surgery
(Nd:YAG laser posterior capsulotomy) if it occurs.
What to think about
For adults, cataract surgery is
almost always elective and can be done at your convenience. The surgeon, or
someone familiar with routine surgical practices, will usually be available for
any follow-up exams and treatment.
Surgery may be advisable if you want to continue to
drive a car. If you live in a retirement home or assisted-living facility, you
may decide to use vision aids and avoid surgery.
If you do not have another eye
condition, such as glaucoma or problems with your
retina, your chances of seeing better after cataract
surgery are very good. But you may still need reading glasses or glasses for
Just because you have a cataract doesn't mean you
need to have it removed. Only you can decide whether cataracts are affecting
your vision and your life enough for you to have surgery. Learn
what to ask about cataract surgery before deciding whether to have the