Understanding Cataract Surgery

If you have a cataract, you might not immediately notice any change to your vision. However, cataracts grow with time, meaning you may increasingly notice symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night and/or double vision.

Cataracts also cause light or glare sensitivity, meaning you may begin to struggle with daily activities, like working on your computer, driving or playing sports outside due to sun exposure.

Do I need Cataract Surgery?

Surgery might not be essential in every case. Some people might feel they can see well using their prescription glasses or contact lenses. However, the only way to alleviate the symptoms and remove the cataract is through surgery. As cataracts progressively get denser, some people choose to undergo surgery before developing symptoms, to remove the risk before issues arise.

Fortunately, the procedure is routine and relatively quick – cataract surgery usually takes less than 30 minutes.

Schedule a check-up with your eye doctor to find out more about cataracts and how surgery could work for you. Use our Clinic Finder tool to find a local cataract surgery specialist near you and discuss your options.

What Happens During Cataract Surgery?

During cataract surgery, an eye surgeon removes the cloudy natural lens from your eye and replaces it with a new, artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL).

eye diagram cornea

The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes and involves the following steps


A topical anaesthetic is applied to numb your eye(s).


A tiny incision is made in the cornea.


A specialised instrument is used to break up and remove the cataract.


A new intraocular lens (IOL) implant is inserted where the cataract once was.


You may be given an eyepatch to use for a short time following the surgery.

After the procedure, your new lens becomes a permanent part of your eye, just like the natural lens you were born with. Once it’s in place, you won’t be able to see or feel it, and the lens doesn’t need any special care.

There are different lenses available and it’s important you spend time discussing which lens would be right for you with your eye doctor. Find out more about intraocular lenses like the PanOptix® IOL and how they could work for your vision goals.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from Cataract Surgery?

Recovery from cataract surgery is usually very quick. After a few days, most patients can return to work and their usual daily activities.

Aftercare will include using eye drops, which you may need to use for up to four weeks. Be sure to follow your eye surgeon’s instructions after your cataract surgery to ensure the recovery time goes as smoothly as possible.

What are the Risks of Cataract Surgery?

Although cataract surgery is a common, effective, and relatively quick procedure, it has potential for complications as with any other surgery. Be sure to talk to your eye doctor ahead of your procedure to learn more about all of the risks associated with cataract surgery.


OVER 600,000

People have cataract surgery every year in the United Kingdom.

95% success rate

Complications are uncommon and most can be treated with medicines or further surgery successfully. Cataract surgery risks include:

  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Retinal detachment
  • Glaucoma
  • Secondary cataract
  • Loss of vision
  • Drooping eyelid 

The risk of complications increases if you have a pre-existing eye disease or a medical condition. Discuss the risks of cataract surgery with your eye doctor for more information.

How Long Before I Notice the Benefits of Cataract Surgery?

Within a few days, your vision should start to ‘settle’ – most people find they have good vision in the treated eye within a few days of the surgery. You may experience some visual disturbances, especially under dim light conditions. However, most of the time these disturbances are expected to disappear over time after the surgery.

Colours should look clarified and vibrant once again within days and you should be able to see things in a clearer focus after your cataract surgery.

Even better, bright lights shouldn’t cause as much glare or sensitivity to your eyes, meaning you can enjoy a fuller experience during daily activities like going outside, playing sports and using your computer.