Visual Outcomes and Possible Complications of Cataract Surgery | The Eye ProfessionalsCataract surgery is a safe and commonly performed surgical procedure. More than three million cataract surgeries are performed in the United States every year. It is fast, relatively risk free, and does not require general anesthesia.

Statistics from past studies of cataract surgery show that almost 96 percent of eyes that had no pre-existing eye disease other than cataract achieved at least 20/40 uncorrected distance visual acuity.

Most Result in Great Vision

What does 20/40 mean?  This level of vision is legally good enough to drive without corrective glasses or contacts.  You should also easily read a newspaper with this level of vision.

Pre-existing eye conditions can also affect your results.  Patients with retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration may have decreased vision from the retinal disease and not the cataract.  Similar issues may occur in patients with glaucoma.

Studies also found that in all eyes, however, including those with pre-existing eye conditions other than cataracts, almost 90 percent of patients had good outcomes and fewer than 2 percent of eyes had sight-threatening complications.

Complications of Cataract Surgery

Serious complications are rare. The people who experience serious complications often have other health conditions that complicate their healing process such as diabetes or high blood pressure. In rare cases, a sight-threatening infection of the inside of the eye can occur. It is usually caused by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection.

Occasionally, swelling of the macula may occur in healthy eyes.  With advanced surgical techniques and instrumentation, this swelling, called cystoid macular edema, does not occur often.  Cystoid macular edema is usually easily treated with topical drops.

A relatively common complication of cataract surgery is one that can easily be treated. A posterior capsular opacification can cause vision to become cloudy months or even years after cataract removal. The treatment for it is a brief procedure—usually less than five minutes, in which a laser creates an opening in the clouded membrane.

The vast majority of cataract surgeries are successful and most eyes—about 90 percent, even those with pre-existing conditions, see better and are fully healed in eight weeks with no cataract surgery complications.  During the initial cataract consultation, with or without pre-existing eye conditions, your eye doctor should be able to determine if cataract surgery will likely improve your sight.