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What is a cataract?

If you have a cataract, the lens is cloudy. This happens gradually over a long period of time. Your vision will become blurry as the cataract develops, until the whole of the lens is cloudy. Your sight will slowly get worse, becoming blurry or misty, making it difficult to see clearly.

Cataracts can happen at any age but usually develop as you get older. Cataracts can also develop due to diabetes, use of steroid medication, trauma or for genetic reasons.

If a cataract prevents you from reading or driving, or doing your normal day-to-day activities, it is advisable to have surgery so that you can get back to living the life you want to lead.

After surgery, the cataract will be gone and you should be able to see much more clearly. Your eyesight won’t be perfect if you have other eye problems, but you should be able to return to routine activities of daily life and the things you enjoy.

Before your eye operation

Before you come into hospital for your operation, you will be asked questions about your health by one of our nurses. Further ‘pre-assessment’ questions may be asked over the phone, or you might be asked to come into the hospital for some simple tests, such as a blood test or a test on the heart called an ECG (Electrocardiogram).

Please let us know if you are taking any regular or herbal medication. Be sure to bring your medication with you on the day of your operation in the original containers. If you do take prescribed medicine on a regular basis, we will give you specific advice about continuing your medication, and what to do on the morning of your operation.

If you are a diabetic you’ll be given instructions about your medication on the day of surgery and told when to stop eating and drinking.

It’s particularly vital you tell us if you are taking any type of blood thinning medication (anticoagulant). Medication of this kind can make your blood clot more slowly. We need to ensure your blood is clotting normally before we operate.

What happens during cataract surgery?

  • When it’s time to go to the operating theatre, our ward staff will escort you
  • Once there, our theatre staff will take you to the anaesthetic room
  • They are very reassuring - they will understand how you feel and will try to help you in every way possible
  • You will be given eye drops before the operation. These are prescribed by the consultant and are needed to prepare your eye
  • Cataract surgery is usually performed under local anaesthetic
  • Your Nuffield Health surgeon will make a tiny incision (cut) in your cornea (the outer layer of your eye)
  • Using a tiny probe that emits ultrasound waves, the surgeon will break up the cataract and remove the pieces from your eye. (This is called phacoemulsification) 
  • A new lens implant will be inserted replacing the cataract.

After your cataract surgery

  • Once your operation is over, you’ll be taken to the recovery room
  • You will have a protective pad and a plastic shield covering your eye for a few hours
  • The local anaesthetic does cause numbness, but normal sensation will return in a few hours
  • Your eye may feel a little bit uncomfortable but regular pain relief is usually enough to treat this
  • After the cataract operation, you will be given more eye drops containing a steroid, to help reduce inflammation, and an antibiotic to help stop any infection
  • Try not to touch or disturb your dressings as this can introduce infection
  • If you notice any discharge or have any pain, don’t hesitate to speak to one of the nurses
  • After you’ve recovered from the effects of any anaesthetic you can go home.

Going home after cataract surgery

  • Remember to arrange for someone to drive you home
  • You may find wearing sunglasses comfortable as your eyes may be sensitive to sunlight
  • You may need help at home for the first 24 hours
  • Avoid bending over as this may cause pressure on your eye
  • Your eye may be red and bright lights could be uncomfortable
  • Your eyesight should improve within a few days, although complete healing can take several months
  • You can shower or bath and wash your hair after 48 hours, but be careful not to get soap and water in your eye
  • It’s important that you don’t rub your eye
  • To prevent rubbing your eye during sleep, you will need to use the plastic shield taped over your eye at night for one to two weeks
  • Keep the plastic shield clean by washing it with soap and water
  • If you go outside, protect your eye with glasses to avoid anything such as dust or grit blowing into it
  • If you find that your eyes become sticky, you can gently wipe the eyelids with cotton wool dampened in cool water that has been boiled
  • It’s usual to return to see your consultant as an outpatient after your operation
  • You will be given details about any appointments before you leave.

You will be prescribed eye drops to use when you get home. These will have been tested to make sure they are free from germs. To keep them in good condition, please make sure you:

  • Keep the bottle tightly closed when not using the drops
  • Keep the drops in the refrigerator if you are told to
  • Do not put the dropper down on any surface
  • Do not let the nozzle of the dropper touch your eye or fingers
  • Never lend your eye drops to anyone else
  • Dispose of your eye drops after four weeks. (When you open the drops, write the date on the bottle, so you know when to throw them away).

Using your eye drops

  • Before using your eye drops, wash your hands thoroughly
  • Tilt your head backwards, look up and pull down the lower eyelid until there is a small pocket
  • Squeeze the dropper bottle and allow one drop to enter the pocket between the lower lid and the eye
  • Try not to let the dropper touch your eye or eyelid
  • Close your eye and blink several times, but do not rub it.

Getting back to normal

  • If you work, your consultant will tell you when you are able to go back to work. It may depend on the type of job you do
  • You should avoid excessive bending, lifting heavy objects and doing any strenuous activity for four to six weeks after the operation
  • You can do light jobs, housework and cooking almost immediately after the operation and you will be able to read, watch TV and go out as usual
  • You should be able to get back to most of your activities by four weeks, as long as your eye has healed
  • You can wear glasses if they help with your vision. However, you will need new glasses after the treatment and should visit your optometrist to get them
  • Driving is dependent on your vision. You should check with your surgeon when you can drive again
  • If you are in any doubt about your insurance cover, it’s best to contact your insurance company. 

Complications and risks of cataract surgery

  • Aching of the eye
  • Bruising of the eyelid
  • Blurry vision (full healing will take several months)
  • Thickening of the lens casing (the part which holds the lens in place). This can be corrected with laser surgery.
Find your nearest hospital that provides this treatment

67 Lansdowne Road, Bournemouth, BH1 1RW

01202 291866
Overall rating View rating

Shenfield Road, Brentwood, CM15 8EH

01277 695695
Overall rating Good

Warren Road, Brighton, BN2 6DX

01273 624488
Overall rating Meeting standards

3 Clifton Hill, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1BN

0117 906 4870
Overall rating Good

4 Trumpington Road, Cambridge, CB2 8AF

01223 370919
Overall rating Outstanding
Cardiff and Vale  

Cardiff Bay Hospital, Dunleavey Drive, Cardiff, CF11 0SN

02920 836700

Hatherley Lane, Cheltenham, GL51 6SY

01242 246 500
Overall rating Good

Wrexham Road, Chester, CH4 7QP

01244 680 444
Overall rating Good

78 Broyle Road, Chichester, PO19 6WB

01243 530600
Overall rating Good

Rykneld Road, Derby, DE23 4SN

01332 540100
Overall rating Good

Wonford Road, Exeter, EX2 4UG

01392 262110
Overall rating Good

25 Beaconsfield Road, Glasgow, G12 0PJ


Stirling Road, Guildford, GU2 7RF

01483 555805
Overall rating Good
Haywards Heath  

Burrell Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 1UD

01444 456999
Overall rating Good

Venns Lane, Hereford, HR1 1DF

01432 355 131
Overall rating Good

Foxhall Road, Ipswich, IP4 5SW

01473 279100
Overall rating Good

2 Leighton Street, Leeds, LS1 3EB

01133 882 067
Overall rating Outstanding

Scraptoft Lane, Leicester, LE5 1HY

0116 2769 401
Overall rating Good
Newcastle upon Tyne  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE2 1JP

0191 281 6131
Overall rating Good
North Staffordshire  

Clayton Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 4DB

01782 625431
Overall rating Good

Beech Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7RP

01865 307777
Overall rating Good

Derriford Road, Plymouth, PL6 8BG

01752 775861
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Longden Road, Shrewsbury, SY3 9DP

01743 282628
Overall rating Good

Staplegrove Elm, Taunton, TA2 6AN

01823 286991
Overall rating Good

Junction Road, Norton, Stockton on Tees, TS20 1PX

01642 367439
Overall rating Outstanding
Tunbridge Wells  

Kingswood Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 4UL

01892 531111
Overall rating Good

The Chase, Old Milverton Lane, Leamington Spa, CV32 6RW

01926 436351
Overall rating Good

Winchester Road, Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, SO53 2DW

02380 266 377
Overall rating Good

Shores Road, Woking, GU21 4BY

01483 227800
Overall rating Good

Wood Road, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, WV6 8LE

01902 754 177
Overall rating Good

Haxby Road, York, YO31 8TA

01904 715000
Overall rating Good

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