Questions to ask before cataract surgery

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Cataract surgery can be a daunting prospect. If you need to have the procedure, we’ve collected some of the key questions to ask before cataract surgery. These can help you make an informed decision about your upcoming procedure, understand any potential challenges, and make you feel more prepared.

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Private cataract surgery at a glance

  • Procedure time: 20 – 30 minutes
  • Waiting time: 4 – 6 weeks
  • Anaesthetic type: local
  • Price: £1,995
  • Payment options: self-pay, insured

Cataract surgery questions and answers

From deciding whether to undergo cataract surgery to the procedure itself (and what happens afterwards!), we’ve answered the most important cataract surgery questions for every stage of your journey.

Deciding on treatment and preparing for surgery

The first step is to take the plunge and book your cataract procedure. Once you’ve got a date in the diary for surgery, you can start to prepare.

How bad do cataracts have to be to qualify for surgery in the UK?

If not addressed, untreated cataracts can lead to significant vision impairment. As such, people typically opt for treatment once their decline in vision starts impacting their daily activities and overall quality of life. Learning how to spot the signs of cataracts will help you keep on top of the condition. It will also help you decide whether you need surgery.

What are the pre-op requirements for cataract surgery?

Before undergoing cataract surgery, you may need to fulfil certain pre-operative requirements to ensure a safe and successful procedure. Specific requirements can vary based on the surgeon and your individual health condition. They could include:

New glasses or contact lenses may be prescribed to address vision issues. If they aren’t enough to effectively correct your vision loss, cataract surgery may be recommended.

What tests are performed before cataract surgery?

Prior to surgery, you will have an evaluation with a specialist. This assessment will involve various measurements of both your eyes and your vision. This could include pupil dilation tests (using eye drops) or blood tests.

Do they check blood pressure before cataract surgery?

Before the surgery, your blood pressure will be assessed. This is to minimise the risk of a heart attack or stroke during or shortly after the operation. The nurse conducting the test will check to make sure your blood pressure falls into a healthy range.

What is the maximum blood pressure for cataract surgery?

Normally, surgeons will delay surgery if the diastolic blood pressure is above 100 or if the systolic blood pressure is between 160 to 180.

What is a pre-assessment for cataract surgery?

The pre-operative cataract assessment serves as our chance to clarify your treatment plan and ensure your readiness for the procedure. It also allows you to meet the care team. During this time, you’ll have the opportunity to ask them any questions you may have. Assessments are typically between one to two hours long, depending on the need for additional diagnostic tests.

How do I prepare for cataract surgery in the UK?

As you won’t be able to drive immediately after cataract surgery, you’ll need to arrange for a friend or family member to drive you home afterwards.

In preparation for your surgery, consider prepping meals in advance or having convenient, easy-to-prepare foods on hand. If possible, enlist the help of a family member, friend, or caregiver to assist with cooking tasks, particularly in the initial days post-surgery.

Hear from our expert:
“The main things you can do to mentally prepare for cataract surgery are research, follow pre-operative advice, and concentrate on reducing any anxiety.

Teresa Anthony headshot
Teresa Anthony
Consultant ophthalmology surgeon

What should you not do before cataract surgery?

You will likely be told to refrain from eating or drinking for a designated period before the surgery. It is essential to adhere to these guidelines to prevent complications during the procedure.

What medications should be stopped before cataract surgery?

Communicate with your surgeon regarding your current medications. These could include over-the-counter medications and supplements too. Adjustments or temporary discontinuation of specific medications, such as blood thinners, may be necessary before undergoing surgery.

Should I shower before cataract surgery?

It’s a good idea to bathe and wash your hair the day before your surgery, as you may have limitations in doing so during the first days after your surgery.

Can you brush your teeth before cataract surgery?

On the morning of your procedure, you can brush your teeth, but avoid swallowing any water.

During the surgical procedure

The following questions are all about what happens during the operation.

Are you sitting or lying down during cataract surgery?

The procedure is commonly carried out with you in a reclined position to ensure the stability and accessibility of your eye for the eye doctor or surgeon. You will typically be lying flat on your back or in a slightly inclined position, with proper head support to ensure comfort during the surgery.

Do I need to wear a gown for cataract surgery?

You should wear comfortable and loosely fitted attire; there’s no need for a hospital gown. It is advisable to choose dark-coloured clothing. This is because iodine is used during surgery and there is a possibility of it running down your neck, potentially staining lighter clothing.

What sedative is used for cataract surgery?

In most instances, a local anaesthetic is administered. This allows you to remain awake and aware throughout the procedure.

Do you feel pressure during cataract surgery?

The procedure should not cause pain. If you experience any discomfort during the surgery, you should inform the team immediately.

Do you see during cataract surgery?

You might observe flashes of light or movement, but you won’t have a visual of what is happening to your eye.

Do they monitor your heart during cataract surgery?

Your breathing and pulse are observed throughout the surgery to make sure you’re doing fine.

How do you stay calm during cataract surgery?

Feeling anxious before cataract surgery, like any surgical procedure is common, but gaining an understanding of the safety and benefits of cataract surgery can ease these concerns.

Some suggestions to manage anxiety include:

  • techniques like deep breathing
  • progressive muscle relaxation
  • meditation to diminish anxiety and foster a sense of calm.

After surgery

Once the surgery is over and done with, you’re probably wondering what comes next. Below are the answers you need to know when recovering from your cataract procedure.

Do you need someone to be with you after cataract surgery?

Ideally, yes. Having someone with you after surgery can help with transportation as you won’t be able to drive after the surgery. A helper may also be able to carry out other everyday tasks around the house that you may struggle with post-operation.

How many days rest is needed after cataract surgery?

Recovering from cataract surgery is generally less demanding than other surgeries. With that said though, the eye requires time to heal, as with any other part of the body.

Your vision will improve as your eye starts to heal. However, it’s important to keep in mind that individual healing rates differ. It might take several weeks for your vision to stabilise and your eye to feel comfortable.

How many hours after cataract surgery can I see?

The sensation in your eye typically begins to return a few hours post-surgery. However, it might take a few days for any blurriness to clear and your vision to completely recover.

Longer term, your eye is expected to be fully recovered and healed within 8 weeks.

What happens if you accidentally bend over after cataract surgery?

It’s best to avoid bending over or leaning forward for an extended period as it can exert pressure on your eye and potentially impact the healing process. We recommend avoiding bending over during the initial two weeks following the surgery.

Do you have to sleep sitting up after cataract surgery?

Follow your surgeon’s advice and wear an eye shield or protective patch while sleeping to minimise the risk of accidental injury to the operated eye.

What should you not drink after cataract surgery?

Try to refrain from drinking alcohol. It can increase inflammation and hinder the healing process.

Can I bend over to tie my shoes after cataract surgery?

It’s best to avoid bending over or leaning forward for an extended period of time. This is because it can exert pressure on your eye and potentially impact the healing process. It’s better to kneel down rather than bend over to tie your shoes.

Why can’t I see at night after cataract surgery?

After the surgery, you may find that your vision is blurry or hazy. You may also struggle with low light conditions. This should improve within 48 hours naturally. It’s important to remember that everyone’s healing process is different and it may take longer for your vision to stabilise.

Does it hurt to cry after cataract surgery?

Natural tears won’t harm your eyes or impede the healing process. In fact, crying may contribute to keeping your eyes lubricated, which can help the healing process. So, feel free to get upset!

Why can’t you wash your hair after cataract surgery?

You should avoid washing your hair directly after cataract surgery. This is to make sure your eyes do not come into contact with irritants like shampoo or soap.

Can I watch TV right after cataract surgery?

After you’ve had your surgery you should practise good eye care habits. These include:

  • avoiding excessive screen time
  • taking regular breaks when using electronic devices.

How soon after cataract surgery can you shower?

Following cataract surgery, it’s recommended to wait at least 24 hours before bathing or showering. After this, you can resume your normal bathing routine. During bathing and showering you should:

  • ensure your eyes are closed
  • refrain from rubbing them
  • be careful to prevent any shampoo or soap from getting in your eyes.

How many days after cataract surgery can you wash your face?

You can wash your face the day after your surgery, but be careful not to touch your affected eye. Try to avoid splashing water directly on your face. Instead, use a washcloth to gently clean your face.

Do you need to tell the DVLA if you have had cataract surgery?

No. There is no need to inform the DVLA about cataract surgery unless your condition previously resulted in not meeting the required vision standards for driving.

Why am I so tired after cataract surgery?

After surgery your body is expending energy to help the healing process. It’s normal to experience heightened fatigue.

Frequently asked questions about cataract surgery

If your cataract surgery questions haven’t yet been covered, take a look at our FAQ section below for more information.

How long is the NHS waiting list for cataract surgery?

With the NHS, the average cataract surgery waiting time last year was around nine months. Depending on location around the UK, some patients faced a much longer wait. The longest waiting time in England was reported by King’s College Hospital. This stood at 21 months. However, the shortest waiting time, at Luton & Dunstable University Hospital, was just two and a half months.

What is the difference between private and NHS cataract surgery?

Typically, the average waiting time for private cataract surgery is a few weeks after consultation. At Practice Plus Group, you will usually have cataract surgery within six weeks of your booking enquiry.

How much does it cost for cataract surgery in the UK?

If you choose our self-pay option, cataract surgery costs £1,995 per eye. You will have your initial consultation within 2-4 weeks which costs £95. This will be with an experienced consultant and include tests to help diagnose your problem and decide the best options available for you. Your surgery will be within just four weeks of your consultation.

When is the best time to have cataract surgery?

Cataracts are treatable regardless of how long you have had them. However, there are advantages to having your surgery sooner rather than later. These include:

– a shorter recovery time
– reduced surgery time
– decreased risk of significant visual impairments.

Does cataract surgery give you 20/20 vision?

Most patients, regardless of the type of lens used for cataract surgery, are able to achieve 20/20 visual acuity (distance vision). However, between 30-50% of patients who choose a monofocal lens will still require corrective lenses after surgery.

Does removing cataracts lower eye pressure?

Cataract surgery alone has demonstrated a reduction in Intraocular Pressure (IOP) in eyes without glaucoma. Even individuals with ocular hypertension, who have not yet experienced glaucomatous damage, may experience effective IOP reduction from cataract surgery.

What is the most common complication of cataract surgery?

The risk from cataract surgery is very low (less than 1%) and complications are very rare. After the operation, you will be sent home with eye care instructions. You will need to put drops into your eyes for a few weeks. Provided you follow the advice after cataract surgery, your recovery should be complete and free from side effects.

What percentage of cataract surgeries are successful?

Cataract surgery is the most successful and frequently performed operation in the UK. Every year, there are over 325,000 cases annually and over 90% of cataract patients report a significant improvement in their vision.

How painful is cataract surgery?

The majority of individuals experience minimal or no pain during or after cataract surgery. Eye drops will be administered to numb your eye during the procedure. After surgery, you may feel a gritty or slightly tender sensation. Over-the-counter pain medication should alleviate this discomfort.

Is cataract surgery major or minor?

Cataract surgery is generally performed on an outpatient basis, allowing patients to return home on the same day. Because of this, it is categorised as a minor procedure.

Do they put a needle in your eye during cataract surgery?

Your eye will be numbed using anaesthetic eye drops, so there are no needles or injections involved.

Questions to ask your cataract surgeon

At your initial appointment, you’ll get a chance to ask your cataract surgeon any questions you have about the procedure. For this reason, it’s a good idea to take a list with you, so that you remember them all. We’ve made a list for you below:

Cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure that can greatly improve your vision and quality of life. Private treatment for cataracts allows you the flexibility to choose your place of treatment as well as a date that suits you. It also allows greater treatment options, with different types of lenses available.

Charles Kanavati headshot


Mr Charles Kanavati MB ChB, FRCSEd, FRCOphth as Medical Director, is a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon for Ophthalmology in Rochdale. After two years in General surgery in Jerusalem, he completed higher surgical ophthalmology training at St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem and UK in 1990. He acquired a wealth of clinical experience and leadership, working at St John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem as a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Director of Clinical Research and Medical Director as well as in private practice until 2009. He then moved to Dubai to work as a Consultant Ophthalmologist, clinical lead and member of the Hospital Clinical Quality & Patient Safety (Including Morbidity & Mortality) Sub-Committee before returning to the UK. Mr Kanavati is experienced in small incision and premium advanced technology cataract and IOL implant surgery, Retinal and Laser surgery.
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