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What are cataract surgery risks?

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Quick Answer

As of 2015, the risks of cataract surgery include vision loss, infection, inflammation, retina detachment, glaucoma, swelling, bleeding and secondary cataract, according to Mayo Clinic. Complications are rare and can generally be treated successfully. Risks are greater for patients with other eye disease, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.

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Cataract surgery is an outpatient treatment that involves removing the eye lens and possibly replacing it with an artificial one, notes Mayo Clinic. The procedure lasts for up to one hour. Doctors recommend cataract surgery when cataracts cause poor vision, hindering a person's normal activities. It is also applicable when cataracts make it difficult to treat another eye condition.

Preparation for cataract surgery may involve performing an ultrasound test, which measures the eye size and shape in order to choose appropriate lens implant, explains Mayo Clinic. The patient also avoids medications that may predispose him to bleeding. During the procedure, a doctor first dilates the pupil with eye drops, administers local anesthesia and sedates the patient. The surgeon cuts an incision, removes the damaged lens and implants a healthy artificial lens as needed. Alternatively, the surgeon may remove the damaged lens through phacoemulsification, which involves breaking up and removing the damaged lens with ultrasound waves.

Many surgeons prescribe eye drops for the patient to use for several days before the surgery to prevent infection, Mayo Clinic states. After surgery, additional drops are often prescribed to reduce inflammation and manage eye pressure. It is common to experience itching and mild pain for a couple of days post-surgery.

Another complication is secondary cataract, or posterior capsule opacification, Mayo Clinic reports. It occurs when the back of the eye's lens, which is left to support a lens implant, becomes cloudy and affects vision. Secondary cataract is treated with a painless out-patient procedure in which a laser creates a hole in the lens.

A patients should contact his doctor if he has pain that cannot be controlled with over-the-counter pain relievers, his eye becomes redder or he loses vision, Mayo Clinic recommends. Flashes or multiple new eye floaters should be reported, and the physician should be notified if the patient experiences severe coughing, nausea or vomiting.

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