Standard Cataract Surgery for Adults
A Guide for You
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding or cloudy area
in the natural lens of the eye. Your
lens is behind the colored part of your
eye (iris). Its job is to focus light onto
the back of your eye. In some people,
cataracts prevent light from reaching
the back of the eye or cause the light
image to be out of focus.
What is cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery helps you see better.
It replaces your natural lens with a
clear artificial one. Drops are put in
the eye to open the pupil giving
access to the lens.
The surgery is most often done under
local anesthetic. This means that you
are awake. Pills or an IV are given to
relax you and your eye is numbed by
either an eye drop or an injection
around the eye.
The most common type of cataract
surgery is called
phacoemulsification. The doctor or
a laser makes a small cut at the edge
of the colored part of your eye. This
is called an incision. The doctor then
uses a small ultrasound tool to break
the lens into tiny pieces. Sometimes a
laser is used for this too. These pieces
are then removed through the tiny
incision using lots of water. In most
cases, the doctor inserts the artificial
lens through the incision.
The incision may seal by itself or may
be closed with stitches. At the end of
surgery, a shield will be placed on the
How do I prepare for cataract
Arrange for someone to help:
1. Drive you to and from the
2. Stay with you for the first 24
3. Drive you to your post
The prescriptions will likely have
been faxed to your pharmacy. Pick
up your eye drops from the pharmacy
at least one week before surgery and
start using them as directed by your
eye drop schedule.
You will need to have a physical
exam before the day of surgery. This
may also include blood tests, an EKG,
or chest x-ray. You will receive
instructions about any medicines to
stop taking while you prepare for
You will receive a call from the
surgery center 1-2 days before surgery
with the details of your arrival time
and to give you instructions about
when to stop eating and drinking.
On the day of surgery:
ξ Bathe, remove all nail polish
and make-up, take off all
jewelry, do not wear perfumes
ξ Bring a photo ID, insurance
card, eye drops, eye drop
schedule and this instruction
How do I care for my eye after
Shield and drops:
ξ You will have a shield on your
eye after surgery. This can be
removed the morning after
ξ Wear the shield when sleeping
for 1 week after surgery. After
the first night, you may sleep
on either side. Wear dark
sunglasses when outside as the
eye might be more sensitive to
ξ Follow the instructions given to
you by the surgery center about
when to start the eye drop
Pain: It is normal to have a scratchy
feeling in the eye for a couple of days
after surgery. Call your doctor if you
have an ache that is not controlled
with acetaminophen (Tylenol®).
ξ Shower or bathe as usual, but
be careful not to get soap into
your eyes. Be careful stepping
in the shower.
ξ You may watch TV and read.
You may need reading glasses
and many times an over the
counter pair will work. You
can discuss this with your
ξ No swimming (pools or natural
bodies of water) or hot tubs for
ξ Be careful on stairs and do not
drive until cleared by your
doctor. Depth perception may
be impaired for a bit after
ξ Moderate exercise or sexual
activity will not harm the eye.
No strenuous activity for 1
week. No lifting more than 25
pounds for 1 week. A good
rule of thumb is that if it makes
you “red in the face,” avoid it
for one week.
ξ If you have had a multifocal or
toric lens, no jumping or jolting
riding/aerobics) for 2 weeks.
ξ Do not rub your eye for at least
ξ Most people feel well enough
to travel 2 days after their
surgery. This includes air
travel. We suggest that you do
not travel to remote areas for 1
week after surgery.
When will I get new glasses?
ξ Most patients receive new
prescription eyeglasses 4-6
weeks after surgery if needed.
We need the eye to heal and the
inflammation to settle before
prescribing new glasses or the
prescription might change.
ξ Sometimes a doctor might
suggest an over-the-counter
pair of glasses to help during
ξ If you have astigmatism, your
vision after surgery may be
limited until you are fitted with
ξ If you have other eye diseases
such as macular degeneration
or glaucoma, your vision may
be limited even after your
cataract is removed.
Call your doctor right away if
ξ An increase in swelling or
ξ Any increase in pain or
discharge from the eye
ξ A decrease in vision
ξ Nausea or vomiting
Clinic Staff can be reached Monday
through Friday from 8:00 am until
5:00 pm. Closed on holidays.
UW Health University Clinic
2880 University Ave., Madison
UW Health Deming Way Clinic
2349 Deming Way, Middleton
UW Health East Clinic
5249 E. Terrace Dr., Madison
When the clinic is closed, call the
Paging Operator at (608) 262-0486.
Ask for the “Ophthalmology Resident
on Call.” Give the operator your
name and phone number with the area
code. The doctor will call you back.
If you live outside the area, call our
toll-free number 1-800-323-8942
Please call if you have any questions
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #6581
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4205