Treatments and tests

Cataract surgery

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a common eye condition that occurs when the lens of your eye clouds over. As light cannot get through the lens to the back of the eye (retina), this can blur or decrease your vision and also cause glare.

What does cataract surgery involve?

A small cut is made in your eye and the opaque (cloudy) lens is removed using an ultrasound probe. The cataract is then replaced by a clear plastic lens which helps improve your vision.

Before your surgery

Once the decision has been made that you need cataract surgery you will undergo various tests. These usually include:

  • determining the power of the replacement lens required to improve your vision
  • a blood test and possibly an electrocardiogram (ECG), which traces your heart rhythm.

On the day of your surgery a nurse will further explain the surgery and answer any questions you may have.

On the day of your surgery

You will be given antibiotic and dilating eye drops every half hour for 2 hours.

In the anaesthetic room you will have a small intravenous line placed in the back of your hand and the surgeon or anaesthetist will anaesthetise your eye using drops or an injection beside the eye.

What happens during cataract surgery

During the operation you will need to lie down flat on your back for up to 45 minutes.

Your eyes and cheeks will be covered with a paper drape but you will be free to breathe through your nose and mouth.

There will always be someone to talk to if you have any worries during the procedure.

After the surgery

On your return from theatre you may have a pad or shield over the eye that was operated on. You will return to the ward for a light snack and a drink.

You may experience slight discomfort after your operation. Please inform the nurse so that you can be given medication to relieve this.

Your surgeon or doctor will order your post-operative eye drops. These will be given to you before you go home or the next day at your follow-up appointment.

You will also be given written instructions and information before you go home.

Once you are home

You may be given eye drops for use at home.

When showering or bathing, do not get water in the eye that was operated on. Be especially careful when washing your hair.

You can sleep on your back or side.

In general, you may resume a full, normal, active life without restrictions 4 weeks after surgery.

Call your eye specialist or go to the nearest hospital emergency department immediately if:

  • your eye becomes increasingly red or painful
  • your eye is discharging
  • you experience a loss in vision.

Where to get help

  • See your ophthalmologist (eye specialist)
  • Speak to your GP.
  • Phone healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.


  • A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye.
  • Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a clear plastic lens.

Related sites


Royal Perth Hospital

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Link to HealthyWA Facebook page