What to expect from cataract surgery

Written by: Mr Geraint Williams
Edited by: Karolyn Judge

Having any kind of eye operation can be an unnerving prospect. When it comes to cataracts, it’s no different. Expert reassurance about the procedure can be extremely helpful.


Here to provide further information about cataract surgery, including how to best prepare for it, how long it lasts and the recovery period, is leading consultant ophthalmologist Mr Geraint Williams.


Person lying down on operating bed, having eye surgery


How can I prepare before cataract surgery?

The best thing that we can do to prepare before cataract surgery is to make sure that the ocular surface and the eye health is optimised. Often, in the clinic we will have look and decide whether, for example, you have any dry eye problems that need to be addressed and these will be reasonably treated in anticipation of the surgery itself. For most patients, however, there isn't anything particular that one needs to do other than to make sure that contact lenses, for example, are removed a couple of weeks prior to surgery and that any new problems are conveyed to the surgeon in advance.



How long does it last?

Cataract surgery typically involves somebody coming in, for a morning or afternoon, usually for a couple of hours to get all the preparation done, including checking you, making sure that the pupil is dilated and so forth. The surgery itself varies from person to person, but typically you'll be in the operating theatre setting for about 20 to 30 minutes with the surgery taking 10 to 15 minutes. It can vary depending on how complex the condition associated with the cataract is. 



Are you awake during cataract surgery? Is the procedure painful?

In the vast majority of patients, cataract surgery is done while you're awake, either with drops to numb the eye or sometimes an injection is placed around the side of the eye. This sometimes means that patients are able to see some things during the surgery, but very typically, studies have shown that this is a lot of flashing lights and kaleidoscopic movement. These aren't something that tends to cause anybody distress.

The procedure itself isn't painful and sometimes, if people do feel anything during the course of the surgery, they can squeeze the hand of the assistant who's holding it, just to let us know that you may need some extra drops to help numb the eye a little bit more to get you through to the end of the operation itself. 



Is it necessary to stay overnight after cataract surgery or will I go home afterward?

Most patients don't need to stay overnight after cataract surgery. As I mentioned earlier, patients will typically come in for a morning or afternoon, and once the surgery is completed, and the nurses have gone through all the drops and steps that are needed to go home, we would send you home the same day.



What does the recovery period look like?

The recovery period is usually fairly quick because of the drops and obviously having an operation itself, the eye is typically a bit blurry for a few days. We would expect, however, that the vision is brighter the next day, we would also expect that, whilst the eye might be a little bit gritty, that it typically isn't painful and whilst it might be a little bit pink, the eye isn't usually very red or bloodshot.


It's very important, of course, that in the first few days that if anything changes either in terms of pain or discomfort or redness, or indeed a reduction in the vision, that you would contact us as a matter of urgency. Thankfully, this situation only happens in a very tiny minority of patients.



If you’re considering cataract surgery and want the best care for your eyes, the expertise Mr Williams can offer is available via consultation. Arrange an appointment on his Top Doctors profile. 

By Mr Geraint Williams

Mr Geraint P Williams is a consultant ophthalmologist specialising in cataract and refractive surgery alongside corneal and external eye disease, working at Hereford Vision Surgical Group and Wye Valley NHS Trust in Hereford and Spire Eye Centre at Spire South Bank Hospital in Worcester.
His expertise, exemplified through his leadership of the corneal service in Worcestershire from 2016 to 2021, includes working with patients with astigmatism and those that have had previous laser refractive surgery. Mr Williams’ work also takes in the use of premium lenses to restore sight, lamellar corneal transplantation and corneal collagen cross-linking. Most recently he has been appointed as consultant ophthalmologist at the Wye Valley NHS Trust in Herefordshire in 2021, serving patients in the county and Mid Wales.

His skilled work reflects a highly-qualified professional; Mr Williams has a postgraduate diploma in cataract and refractive surgery from Ulster University, a PhD in Ophthalmology from the University of Birmingham and a MBBCh in Medicine and a BSc in Medical Genetics, both from Cardiff University. Mr Williams also undertook advanced cataract and cornea and external disease training in Birmingham, London and Singapore.

His ophthalmological interests also include ocular surface inflammation, infection and scarring, corneal dystrophies such as Fuchs’ endothelial corneal dystrophy, keratoconus and dry eye disorders.
Mr Williams is internationally recognised, with a clinical fellowship from Singapore National Eye Centre. He was a Clinical Research Fellow at the Singapore Eye Research Institute, and an NIHR Clinical Lecturer and latterly an honorary clinical senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham. Mr Williams is a speaker in the UK and abroad, as well as a reviewer for numerous ophthalmic and scientific journals.  

Mr Williams is a visiting professor at Ulster University, where he teaches on the postgraduate diploma in cataract and refractive courses. He holds the Royal College of Ophthalmologists Certificate in Laser Refractive Surgery (Cert LRS).

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