During cataract surgery, a small incision is cut on the side of the cornea, and a device that emits ultrasound vibrations is inserted into the eye to break the cloudy lens known as the cataract, which is ultimately removed. A clear lens is then inserted to replace the cloudy lens.
Prior to cataract surgery, the patient receives local anesthesia before a cut is made to the side of the cornea using a laser. The technique is often termed phacoemulsification. The incision is often small since the cloudy lens or cataract is shattered, liquefied and vacuumed out of the small opening in the eye.
The cataract is replaced with a new man-made lens, known as an intraocular lens. The new lens is permanent, and it is designed to restore vision in the eye, often reducing the need for eyeglasses following the procedure. The new lens improves vision by focusing light onto the retina, thus enabling patients to see better at a distance without glasses, although a new eyeglass prescription may be necessary in some cases.
The procedure to remove a cataract is often an outpatient procedure in a hospital or medical facility. The surgery typically lasts less than an hour, and many patients are primarily awake with a mild sedative and numbing drops in and around the eyes.