Cataract Surgery Risks

Cataract surgery is considered safe and effective but like any surgical procedure, there are risks. Cataract surgery complications are uncommon, but may occur. It is important to discuss the procedure at length with a qualified ophthalmologist before deciding on your surgery. It is also necessary to follow his or her instructions after making the decision to have your vision corrected. This can significantly reduce the risk of complications.

Less than two percent of cataract surgeries have any complications. Over 95 percent of people have markedly improved vision after their surgery, and the few who do not usually have a pre-existing or underlying condition that has interfered with their surgical outcome. Examples would be a diabetic person with some retinopathy, or an older person with some macular degeneration.

Posterior Capsule Opacity

The IOL is placed in the same location previously occupied by the natural lens. It has the same lens membrane behind it (posterior capsule) which is very thin – about as thick as one blood cell. About one-fifth of cataract patients have blurry vision after their surgery because the capsule (membrane) has some of the natural lens protein cells adhering to it. They block and scatter incoming light.

This is easily treated with a laser which moves the cloudy membrane out of your visual field. No incision is necessary and there is no pain. Light can now travel easily through your IOL to the retina and your vision will be clear. For more on the different types of IOL, please see our IOL Technology page.

Unwanted Movement of the IOL

Because the lens capsule is so thin it can break. It is anchored by thin fibers which can also break. The IOL has two “wings” or “arms” which hold it in place but one of them might move out of position.

A follow-up surgery can reposition the IOL and it may be stitched into place. This should be done as soon as possible, before the body creates too much fibrous tissue around the IOL.

Other Possible Complications

Infection and bleeding are extremely rare and should be corrected immediately if they occur. If you follow your surgeon’s post-op instructions well, you will reduce any risk of these occurring.

In rare cases there can be some retinal detachment, perhaps months or years later. There are ways of treating this and they are more successful the sooner they are implemented. So do contact your eye surgeon if you notice any sudden increase of floaters or light flashes.

There may be some swelling of the cornea or increased pressure inside the eye and these will subside on their own or can be corrected with medications. Sometimes the upper eyelid will droop a little but an eyelid surgery can correct that.

A Final Word on Risks

You will have a series of follow-up visits after your cataract surgery, so that your eye surgeon can monitor your healing. You will have antibiotic eyedrops to prevent infection and printed instructions as to how to care for yourself during recovery.

By choosing a good cataract surgeon and by trusting and following his directions you will minimize any risk of complications. For more details about cataract surgery or to locate a fully-qualified and well-experienced eye surgeon in your area, please contact us.