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Cataract Surgery and Other Treatments: Which One is Most Effective?

Cataract Surgery and Other Treatments: Which One is Most Effective?

Cataract surgery is one of the oldest most common surgeries in the world and is considered the primary treatment for cataracts. Over the years, cataract surgery has evolved from a day-long inpatient procedure to a less-than-an-hour surgery wherein the patient can go home within the day.

Cataract surgery is generally safe and poses a minimal negative impact on the patient. Modern techniques often involve removing the hardened lens and replacing it with an artificial one called intraocular lenses (IOL).

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Types of Cataract Surgery

There are different types of cataract surgery and procedure depends on the availability of the technology, as well as the cost.

Phacoemulsification or Phaco

A small cut or incision is made on the side of the cornea, the clear layer in front of the eye. The doctor inserts a tiny device into the cut that would emit ultrasound waves that would soften and break the affected lens so that it can be removed by suction. This procedure is then immediately followed by inserting the IOL in the lens capsule, which is the sac that holds the lens in place.

Extracapsular Surgery

Compared to phaco, extracapsular surgery involves cutting a larger incision on the side of the cornea. The hardened lens is removed in one piece before an IOL is inserted in the lens capsule.

Laser-assisted Cataract Surgery

A device is placed over the eye to gather information about the lens. Information from the device tells the laser the depth, size, and exact location of the cut. The surgeon may also use power from the laser to soften the cataract. Routine phacoemulsification then follows by inserting an ultrasound device to further soften and break the lens prior to being suctioned out. The procedure is then followed by inserting the artificial lens.

Types of IOL

The intraocular lens (IOL) is the artificial lens that is inserted into the lens capsule once the old hardened lens is removed. The type of IOL used depends on the availability and the patients’ needs. The doctor would usually discuss the advantages and drawbacks as well as the lifestyle adjustment of each option.

Fixed-focus monofocal lenses

This type helps with distance vision. Patients with this IOL will need the help of glasses when reading or looking at near objects.

Accommodating monofocal lenses

These lenses can shift from near to far vision in response to movement from the ciliary body. This type of lens is ideal for far and middle vision. But some patients might still have to use glasses for reading.

Toric lenses

Astigmatism is a refractive error caused by the irregular curvature of the cornea. Toric lenses can be inserted to correct astigmatism as well as aid in far vision.

Multifocal lenses

These are very similar to progressive or bifocal lenses where there are areas assigned for distant, intermediate, and near vision. The disadvantage of this type of lens is the distortion of bright light that results in glare and halos especially during the night.

What to Expect Before the Surgery

As mentioned, cataract surgery is relatively safe and quick. However, to help calm the nerves, here’s what to expect at your next doctor’s appointment.

  • The doctor will perform an ultrasound to gather information on your eye. The information will be used to determine the right type of implant.
  • Your doctor will present options on what implant you can have.
  • Your doctor might ask you to use eye drops before the procedure.
  • Medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes have to be under control.
  • Your doctor might have to ask you to stop taking certain medications.
  • You will be asked not to take any solid food or drink liquids hours before the surgery.

What to Expect After the Surgery

Right after surgery, the patient will be sent to the recovery room to wait for the anesthesia to wear off. When the patient is ready to go home, a bandage or clear shield is placed over the eye of the patient to hasten healing and to prevent too much stress on the eye.

  • Vision might be blurry in the next couple of days but will eventually become clearer as the eye heals.
  • There will be itching and mild discomfort as the eye heals.
  • Eye drops will be prescribed to prevent infection and reduce inflammation. The eye drops will also control eye pressure preventing any complications from the surgery.
  • Colors will seem brighter and the person can see more detail .
  • The patient will have to visit the doctor days, weeks, and months after the surgery for monitoring and testing of vision.
  • Complete recovery might take up to 8 weeks.

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Tips for Recovery

To ensure that great vision is maintained post-op, the following advice should be followed.

  • Heavy lifting and strenuous activities must be avoided while the eye is still recovering.
  • Avoid swimming in the pool or a hot tub at least a week after surgery.
  • The patient might still have difficulty seeing so driving must be avoided.
  • Avoid wearing makeup as this might cause infections in the eye.
  • Rubbing or pushing the eyes to relieve discomfort must be avoided.
  • Use an eye patch during the day and a protective shield during the night a few days after the surgery to prevent the eye from infection.
  • Follow the doctor’s instructions.
  • If a patient is experiencing nausea, vomiting, pain in the eye, and vision loss, make sure to visit the ophthalmologist immediately.

Key Takeaways

Cataract surgeries often take less than an hour and a patient can usually go home on the same day after the procedure.

Before the surgery, the patient must choose what implant best suits his needs and lifestyle. A person who has undergone surgery can gradually resume their daily lives so long as they avoid certain activities and take extra precautions in protecting their eyes.

Learn more about Cataracts here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Types of Cataract Surgery, https://www.willseye.org/centers-for-advanced-cataract-surgery/types-cataract-surgery/, Accessed February 4, 2021

Traditional Cataract Surgery vs. Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/traditional-vs-laser-assisted-cataract-surgery, Accessed February 4, 2021

Cataract surgery, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cataract-surgery/about/pac-20384765, Accessed February 4, 2021

Considering cataract surgery? What you should know, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/considering-cataract-surgery-what-you-should-know, Accessed February 4, 2021

Cataract Surgery, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-cataract-surgery, Accessed February 4, 2021

After cataract surgery: a post-surgical guide, https://visioneyeinstitute.com.au/eyematters/cataract-surgery-post-surgical-guide/, Accessed February 4, 2021

Cataract surgery: What to expect before, during and after, https://www.health.harvard.edu/aging/cataract-surgery-what-to-expect-before-during-and-after, Accessed February 4, 2021

Cataract Surgery Recovery: 5 Tips From an Expert, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/cataract-surgery-recovery-5-tips-from-an-expert, Accessed February 4, 2021

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Written by Hazel Caingcoy Updated May 25
Medically reviewed by Victor Ephraime V. Paulino, MD, DPBO