What happens during cataract surgery?

The lens of the eye is mainly composed of water and proteins. But as we age, these proteins may begin to clump together and cloud the lens, causing a cataract.

Cataracts are very common, affecting roughly 60 percent of people over the age of 60. More than 1.5 million cataract surgeries are performed in the United States each year.

If the condition becomes severe, your surgeon will recommend replacing the affected lens with an artificial one during a phacoemulsification procedure.

After administering local or topical anesthetic, the surgeon makes three small incisions in or near the cornea.

An ultrasound probe is then used to break the cloudy lens into tiny fragments, which are vacuumed out through the incisions. Then an artificial intraocular lens made of plastic, silicone or acrylic is inserted.

Because the incisions are so small, stitches are normally not necessary. Vision often improves drastically immediately following surgery.

Your doctor may recommend that you take an over-the-counter pain reliever to relieve any mild eye irritation. For a few weeks after cataract surgery, you will need to use medicated eye drops to aid healing and prevent infection.