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Cataract Surgery

Cataract Surgery - What it is

Cataract surgery is a surgical procedure used to treat cataracts that are affecting your vision. It is the most common surgery performed at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC).  

What is Cataract? 

Cataract is a condition when the natural lens in your eye becomes progressively cloudy. Aging is the commonest cause of cataract.

normal vision without the need of cataract surgery
Normal Vision

cataract affected vision with the need of cataract surgery
Vision with Cataract

Cataract Surgery - Symptoms

The most common symptoms of a cataract are:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Colours seem faded
  • Glare and haloes
  • Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses (“power” keeps changing)

These symptoms can also be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your ophthalmologist.

Cataract Surgery - How to prevent?

There is no scientifically proven prevention. However, you can delay early onset cataracts with the following:

  • Protecting your eyes from ultra-violet (UV) light by wearing sunglasses
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Treating diseases such as diabetes
  • Refraining from smoking

Cataract Surgery - Causes and Risk Factors

What causes Cataract?

The most common cause of cataract is ageing.

The two preventable causes of cataract formation would be:

  • Smoking
  • UV radiation (sunlight) exposure

Cataract can also occur at a younger age if you:

  • Have poorly controlled diabetes
  • Take certain types of medication such as corticosteroid, etc.
  • Are born with it (congenital) Experienced previous trauma to the eye

What are the risks of cataract surgery?

As with any surgery, cataract surgery poses risks such as infection and bleeding. Before cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist may ask you to temporarily stop taking certain medications that increase the risk of bleeding during surgery.

A possible complication that can occur during surgery is the rupture of the lens capsule (“bag”) that supports the lens. As a result of this complication, the artificial lens implant may have to be placed in a suitable alternative position, different from the original intended position. This may be performed during the same surgery or arranged as a separate operation.

Possible complications that may arise after cataract surgery include:

  • Infection (Endophthalmitis)
  • Inflammation
  • Retinal detachment
  • High eye pressure for a few days
  • Leaking wound which may require stitching
  • Cloudiness of the cornea
  • Swelling of the retina
  • Sensitivity to eye drops
  • Displacement of the lens implant
  • Droopy eyelids

There is a small possibility of needing another surgery if the above complications occur.

What happens after my cataract surgery?

After the operation, you will need to:

  • Apply eye drops in your operated eye.
  • Clean your eye for the first one (1) week.
  • Keep your eye covered with an eye shield on the day of surgery and every night while sleeping for about two (2) weeks.
  • Prevent contaminated water from entering the eye.

After surgery, you must keep your eye clean, wash your hands before touching your eye, and use the prescribed medications to help minimise the risk of infection. Serious infection can result in loss of vision.

After cataract surgery, depending on the choice of lens implant:

  • You may need eyeglasses for reading only.
  • You may need to wear eyeglasses for seeing far and for reading, or you may not need eyeglasses at all.

You will take two to four weeks to recover. Any eyeglasses needed should be prescribed between three and six weeks after surgery.

Good vision with or without glasses can usually be achieved after cataract surgery. However, if there are other eye conditions that are present, your visual outcome may be dependent on the severity of these conditions.

What eye drops do I need after cataract surgery?

You will need antibiotic and steroid drops after surgery for several weeks.

It is common to have an occasional itch, foreign body sensation, and/or tearing for a few days or weeks after your cataract surgery. Artificial tears can be used to relieve this sensation.

Can a cataract come back after surgery?

After cataract surgery, it is not possible for a cataract to come back because the lens has been entirely removed.

The new lens implant will last a lifetime and will not need maintenance or replacement. It is possible, however, for a cloudy film to grow on the lens capsule (“bag”) that is located behind the lens implant. This occurs usually some months or years after surgery. If the cloudiness of the lens capsule (“bag”) affects your vision, it can be cleared with a 5-minute, painless laser treatment. The cost of the laser treatment is not included in the cost of cataract surgery.

Why should I have my cataract surgery done in SNEC?

We emphasise Quality:

  • SNEC handles the most number of cataract surgeries in Singapore each year.
  • Our ophthalmologists are well-trained and have gone through strict and lengthy guided training.
  • We also handle complicated cataract surgery encountered in children, after trauma and in a variety of congenital and medical conditions.
  • We have experienced paramedical staff to perform eye measurements which are crucial in obtaining good outcomes after cataract surgery.

We emphasise Safety:

  • We ensure safety through strict training of ophthalmologists.
  • We keep ourselves updated by constantly carrying out research and trials to evaluate what is suitable for our patients.
  • We are strict and diligent in preventing infection.
  • We audit our surgical outcomes and results.

Cataract Surgery - Diagnosis

Cataract is detected through a comprehensive eye examination by an ophthalmologist.

Cataract Surgery - Treatments

How is cataract surgery performed?

In cataract surgery, the cloudy cataractous lens is removed and then replaced with an artificial intraocular lens. The most common technique used in cataract surgery is phacoemulsification. 

  • The duration of cataract surgery usually takes about 30 minutes to complete in routine cases.
  • This is a day surgery procedure and you will not be required to stay in hospital.
  • You are required to come back for a follow up visit the next day.
  • An anaesthetist will be with you during surgery to provide sedation to make you  feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Depending on the individual,  you may not be totally asleep during surgery, however you will remain comfortable and will not be able to witness the ongoing surgery. Anaesthetic eye drops and/or injections will be given to help minimise the discomfort. It is important to cooperate by not talking or moving your head and body during the surgery.

Download Cataract Surgery Leaflet

Download Cataract Patient Guide (English)

Download Cataract Patient Guide (Chinese)

Cataract Surgery - Preparing for surgery

Cataract Surgery - Post-surgery care

Cataract Surgery - Other Information

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth