What are the Most Common Problems After Cataract Surgery?

As we get older, the likelihood of developing cataracts continuously rises, affecting not only our vision but also our quality of life. Thankfully, Cataract Surgery is a simple and effective solution that can restore your vision to its former glory. But what about the risk of complications? What are the most common problems after Cataract Surgery?

Cataract Surgery has become the most commonly performed surgery in the world, with an estimated 450,000 procedures carried out each year by the NHS in England alone. The routine nature of the procedure has helped to make it exceedingly safe with the vast majority of cases being successful. Nonetheless, as with any type of surgical procedure, there is a small risk of complications both during and after the operation.

But before we look at these potential complications in more detail, let’s gain a better understanding of how Cataract Surgery works.

How Cataract Surgery Restores Your Vision

Cataracts form when the proteins in our eyes’ lenses begin to break down. Over time, these proteins clump together and form cloudy obstructions in the lenses that can affect both the clarity of our vision and our ability to see colours. Cataract Surgery can reverse these effects by removing the clouded lens from the eye and replacing it with a clear, artificial lens.

Depending on where you have Cataract Surgery, these artificial lenses, known as intraocular lenses or IOLs, can be specifically selected to correct existing refractive errors such as long-sightedness (hyperopia), short-sightedness (myopia) and astigmatism. In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is successful and patients will notice an immediate improvement in their vision.

What are the risks of Cataract Surgery?

Advancements in technology and equipment now mean that serious complications are rare in Cataract Surgery; however, it is important that patients are aware of the risks associated with their treatment – no matter how small.

Potential complications can occur both intra- and post-operatively. In many cases, these complications can be managed and treated. However, in rare cases, complications in Cataract Surgery can be associated with permanent vision problems. Some problems encountered after Cataract Surgery may be related to existing eye conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, but this isn’t always the case.

Some common side effects that can occur after Cataract Surgery include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Discomfort/itchy eyes
  • Glare
  • Blurred vision
  • Swelling

These side effects are usually temporary and can be managed effectively. However, there is a small risk of more serious complications. We discuss these in further detail below.

Posterior Capsule Opacification (PCO)

Posterior capsule opacification (PCO) is one of the most common complications that occur after Cataract Surgery. It is currently estimated that 20% – 40% of patients will develop PCO between two and five years after their procedure.

This post-cataract surgery complication can cause vision to become cloudy again. It can be so significant that it can even appear that the cataract has returned – but that is not the case. In PCO, clouding occurs when cells remaining after Cataract Surgery grow over the back (the posterior) of the lens capsule. Over time, this causes the capsule to thicken and become cloudy – a process known as opacification. This prevents light from entering the eye effectively, leading to vision problems.

Capsule thickening can happen as early as three months after your surgery but it most commonly occurs after two or more years. Although PCO affects your vision, it is not associated with any other harm to your eye. A simple laser procedure called YAG capsulotomy is the only way to treat PCO.

Other complications can include:

Posterior Capsule Rupture/Vitreous Loss: This may occur when capsule tears lead to capsular rupture and loss of vitreous (the gel-like fluid that fills the eye).

Cystoid Macular Edema (CME): When multiple cyst-like areas of fluid appear in the macula, causing retinal swelling. Occurs in approximately 1-2% of Cataract Surgery procedures.

Retinal Tears/Detachment: Retinal detachment is considered a delayed complication of Cataract Surgery. The risk of retinal detachment is higher in patients with highly myopic eyes or early-developed cataracts. Patients who have received YAG laser capsulotomy may also be at increased risk.

Lens Dislocation: Dislocation of the intraocular lens. This may occur as an early or late complication of Cataract Surgery. Between 0.2% and 3% of patients may experience this complication.

Some potential complications of Cataract Surgery can be serious and require medical attention immediately. However, in the vast majority of cases, the procedure and recovery go smoothly, allowing cataract patients to start enjoying their vision again without any worries.

If you’d like to learn more about Cataract Surgery at London Vision Clinic, take a look at our helpful guides on the topic. Alternatively, get in touch with one of out friendly clinic coordinators or Book a Consultation today.