How Is A Cataract Removed?

Couple after receiving cataract treatment

By the time you’re in your seventies, there’s at least a 50 percent chance that you’ll have cataracts. This means chances are good either you or a loved one will have cataracts at some point in your life. It also means odds are good that you’ll have cataracts that will need removal.

Removing cataracts only becomes necessary when they impede your vision. The only way to do this is through cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is a common procedure that’s proven to be safe and effective. But how does it work? It’s actually pretty simple and only takes a few steps.


For most eye surgeries, the patient needs to be awake to keep their eyes still at certain points in the surgery. For cataract surgery, local anesthetic eye drops are used. These drops numb the eye and make the procedure painless.

Making The Incision

The first step in cataract surgery is making a small incision. This is created through the outer surface of the eye and cornea. This can be done with a small blade or a laser depending on what technology is available. This incision is the only one needed for the whole procedure.

Breaking Up and Removing the Cataract

Through the incision, the surgeon uses an instrument to break up the clouded lens. This uses an ultrasonic device that uses vibrations to break up the lens or a laser that softens the lens.

Either way, the lens gets broken down into smaller pieces before removal. The pieces of the lens are then removed through a small suction device.

Inserting the IOL

The final part of the procedure involves replacing the lens. The replacement is an intraocular lens (IOL). There are different kinds of IOLs that can allow the patient to see up close or far away.

With standard monofocal IOLs, the cost is usually covered under the price of surgery. It is also the only IOL insurance companies and Medicaid will cover.

Premium IOLs are also available, but they cost more. The advantage is these IOLs often allow patients to live without glasses!

The folded-up IOL is inserted through the incision where it unfolds. Once unfolded, the IOL acts as the natural lens would.

After this part of the procedure is over, the patient is usually left to rest for a few minutes and then sent home. There’s no need for any sutures or stitches to close the incision as it will close up on its own over time.


Recovering from cataract surgery is a fairly painless process. It can take a week or two to get back into the swing of things. During this period, patients must be careful to protect their eyes.

This means you cannot perform any strenuous activities. This decreases your risk of complications. Your eye doctor will clear you once you are safe to go back to your normal activities.

Do you have cataracts? Think it may be time to get them treated? Contact Ellis Eye and Laser Medical Center to schedule your cataract evaluation! With several San Francisco locations, it’s never been easier to get your sight back!


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