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What are the risks of having cataract surgery?

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Complications arise in only 5 percent of the cataract surgeries performed each year, with infection, inflammation and swelling posing the most risk, according to the Digital Journal of Ophthalmology. A small number of patients experience retinal detachment, choroidal hemorrhaging, dislocated lens material or vision loss following cataract surgery.

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Patients who have other eye disorders and underlying medical conditions typically face greater risks for complications after cataract surgery. The chance of retinal detachment is especially high for individuals with previous eye damage, particularly those who suffer from nearsightedness, states the National Eye Institute. Retinal detachment is a serious side effect that requires immediate medical attention to prevent permanent vision loss.

In rare cases, unexpected bleeding occurs in the blood vessels beneath the retina, resulting in a choroidal hemorrhage. Some individuals recover completely from this complication, while patients with severe hemorrhaging may experience extensive vision loss afterwards, says the Digital Journal of Ophthalmology. Dislocated lens material can affect a patient's vision as well, especially larger pieces that fall into the back of the eye. Doctors may recommend a second surgery to remove pieces that may irritate the eye or interfere with vision.

A small percentage of cataract surgeries fail to improve a patient's vision, usually due to other damage from glaucoma or macular degeneration. Patients should seek treatment for these conditions first to minimize the risks of cataract removal, recommends Mayo Clinic.

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.

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