Cataract surgery can be an effective intervention for vision problems, such as visual fog and night-time driving glare, and restore overall vision. Because of this success, more than four million cataract surgeries are performed across the country annually.* However, post-surgical complications can still occur, although they are very rare.
A study showed that of more than 220,000 cataract surgeries, 99.5 percent had no serious complications post-surgery.
Who Is at Risk of Complications?
Your doctor should have a preoperative evaluation with you to better understand your health background and how any diagnoses may affect your recovery. For example, if you have the following conditions, you will want to pay close attention to your doctor’s instructions. They include:
- Macular Degeneration
- Nearsightedness, High Myopia, or Pathological Myopia
Follow your physician’s pre-surgery instructions meticulously so you are fully prepared. That may include obtaining any medications you may need post-surgery.
What Side Effects Are Normal?
Cataract surgery involves a 20-minute surgery under local anesthesia and is usually painless. You will likely be given an antibiotic and pressure-lowering drop or medication to begin healing, as well as a patch that protects the eye.
Within a day or two, you may experience the following side effects:
- Eye discomfort
- Grogginess, dizziness, or nausea from lasting anesthesia effects
- Blurriness of the eye
- Itchiness of the eye
- Redness in the white of the eye
- Dryness, irritation, or scratchy feeling in the eye
- Swelling of the eye
- Eye floaters
- Light sensitivity to light
- Halo effect
What Are the Concerning Side Effects?
If you have symptoms lasting longer than two days, then they may warrant a call to your doctor’s office or the nurse’s line. The side effects that may cause concern are the following:
- A sudden impact on vision
- Redness in or around the eye that lasts after two days
- Continued light sensitivity
- Eye discharge
- Persistent pain
- Fever, nausea and/or vomiting
- Increase in floaters, or seeing flashing lights
- A shadow in your peripheral vision, in your field of vision, or dark spots
The sooner you call your doctor when experiencing these symptoms allows them to treat you to prevent complications from further progressing.
The Rare Complications to Watch Out For
Complications occur almost immediately after cataract surgery. Rare complications may include:
- Eye inflammation, especially if you had large or dense cataracts.
- Light sensitivity, which can be a sign of infection or iritis (the inflammation of the iris).
- Photopsia where one would see floaters or flashing light.
- Macular edema, which is a buildup of fluid in the macula.
- Ptosis, also known as a droopy eyelid.
- Intraocular lens dislocation, which happens if the new lens implant is not sitting in the right part of the eye.
- Post-operative interocular Infection, also known as endophthalmitis, can occur.
- Posterior capsule opacification (PCO), which occurs when the back of the lens becomes cloudy.
- Torn or detached retina, which is more likely in younger patients.
Overall, the benefits of cataract surgery are high and the risk is low. Nonetheless, knowledge is power and since each person is bound to have a different experience, it’s important to watch out for potential concerning side risks and complications.
*Lamb, B. S. (2021, August 17). Possible Side Effects and Complications After Cataract Surgery. AARP. https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2021/cataract-surgery.html