Cataracts occur when the eye lens becomes cloudy. As the lens is responsible for focusing light onto the back of the eye, a lens that is no longer transparent due to cataracts will impair vision. The only true way to correct cataracts and to improve vision is by surgical removal of the opaque lens and replacement with an artificial implant.
Cataract surgery is a very common procedure and is generally considered safe. Problems after cataract surgery are rare but even so, there are some slight risks, as with all types of operation. Most of the potential problems after cataract surgery are serious but can be managed successfully by your surgical team. The most common cataract surgery complications are outlined below.
What are the side effects of cataract surgery?
There are a few potential complications that may occur during cataract surgery, including:
- Bruising around the eyelids. This should resolve in a few days.
- Bleeding within the eye, which can impair vision.
- Bruising behind the eye from the local anaesthetic, which can also impair vision.
- Unexpected damage to the back of the capsule which can cause the cataract lens to fall into the deeper part of the eye. Additional, specialist surgery is required to retrieve it, if this happens.
- Stitching. The usual surgical technique involves tiny incisions that do not require stitching. However, if the incisions need to be made larger, stitches may be required to close the wound. These stitches will be removed at the out-patient clinic review.
What are some problems after cataract surgery?
You may experience blurred vision after cataract surgery. This blurring could be due to a few factors including:
- Lens error – the lens that replaced your own natural lens is the incorrect prescription.
- Dry eyes – this may be treated with artificial tears
- Blurred vision could also be a natural consequence of your visual system adjusting to your new lens. It could take a few weeks before you start seeing things in sharp focus.
Other potential cataract surgery complications include:
The transparent tissue that protects the front of your eye is known as the cornea. Sometimes cataract surgery can irritate the cells of the cornea, resulting in swelling and clouding, which can permanently impair vision if left untreated. If this happens to you, eye drop treatment should help.
Eye infection is also a possible side effect of cataract surgery. Endophthalmitis is an infection inside the eyeball itself and symptoms include pain, eye redness and visual disturbance. Treatment of endophthalmitis includes injection of antibiotics directly into the eye and must be started early, otherwise there is a risk of permanent vision loss.
Raised eye pressure
Ocular hypertension is when the pressure in your eye is higher than normal. This raised pressure can lead to a condition known as glaucoma, which puts your vision at risk. As with infection, if caught and treated early, the eye should be at less risk of long-term harm.
Swollen or detached retina
Swelling of the retina at the back of the eye can occur within a few weeks of the cataract operation. This occurs in around 5% of cataract patients and is typically treated with eye drops, with no permanent damage.
Detached retina is more serious and if not treated can result in vision loss. Symptoms include flashing lights, a burst of floaters and an experience as if a shadow is blocking part of your sight. Treatment is usually with specialised surgery.
Take home message
It is important to bear in mind that cataract surgery is the only permanent treatment for cataracts. Without removal of the opaque lens and replacement with an artificial one, you will never recover clear vision and your symptoms will only get worse.
Cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed operations in the UK and the risk of serious complications leading to harm is very low. However, if you notice discomfort or a sudden change in your vision in the days, weeks and months following your surgery, you should get in touch with your eye team right away.
About Ramsay Health Care
At Ramsay Health Care we are proud to work in partnership with some of the highest qualified and experienced cosmetic surgeons, ophthalmologist, orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, pain management consultants and physiotherapists in the UK. Our holistic care offers you the best treatment!
At Ramsay you won’t have to wait for an appointment for your cataract surgery. Your treatment may be covered by medical insurance and self-pay packages are available on request. We have first class facilities and all self-funding and most privately insured patients can enjoy our Private Patient Pledge offering exclusive benefits including superb food, a relaxing environment, priority access and appointments to suit your lifestyle. Our aim is to help you feel like a guest as well as a patient.
Please contact us for more information.