How Cataract Surgery Works

During cataract surgery, the lens that has been clouded by cataracts is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. An intraocular lens not only restores clear vision after cataracts, but may also correct common refractive errors and help patients see more clearly without eyeglasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery has a high rate of success, a very low complication rate, and is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures Trusetd Source Checkbox Trusted Source Mayo Clinic Cataracts Surgery Go to Source in the United States .1

When to Know it’s Time for Cataract Surgery

In the early stages of the development of cataracts, many patients are able to compensate for any visual deterioration by changing their glasses or contacts prescription. This, however, is not a cure for cataracts, which is a progressive condition. Over time, clouding of the lens due to age-related cataracts will begin to impact a patient’s ability to perform everyday tasks safely, affecting their ability to drive, read, and engage in other normal tasks.

The only true cure for cataracts is cataract surgery. Many people delay having cataract surgery until their vision changes to the point of not being able to drive. If your vision is 20/40 or worse, or if you feel that clouding of your vision is prohibiting your ability to perform normal daily activities, you may be ready to have your cataracts removed. Consult with an eye care specialist you trust for more information.

Standard Cataract Surgery

Standard cataract surgery has advanced dramatically over the past few decades. In most cases the cataract is extracted through a tiny incision and a single focus intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted to replace the cloudy natural lens. Standard IOLs used by our eye doctors at The Eye Institute of Utah have ultraviolet protection built into the lenses to continue protecting your retina after surgery.

After standard cataract surgery, your vision will be much clearer, but you may still need to wear glasses for reading and some other activities, especially if you have astigmatism. Standard cataract surgery is covered by Medicare and most medical insurances, but it is important to do your research to determine what percentage your insurance will cover, and how much remaining expenses you will owe out-of-pocket.

Custom Cataract Surgery

While standard cataract surgery is a wonderfully successful procedure, there are now options for patients wishing to have less dependence on glasses and contact lenses. For most cataract patients, life without eyeglasses is something they either experienced when they were very young or they just dreamed about for most of their lives. Custom Cataract Surgery surpasses standard cataract surgery by including advanced testing and technology, and providing the added benefit of using advanced technology IOLs to enhance vision and provide you with decreased dependence on glasses. Custom Cataract Surgery primarily addresses presbyopia and astigmatism. These are the conditions, or refractive errors, that remain even after standard cataract surgery. Custom Cataract Surgery is also a great option for those who have had previous LASIK, PRK or RK surgery.

At The Eye Institute of Utah, all of our Custom Cataract Surgery packages include the use of advanced technology. The LenSx® Femtosecond laser replaces the blade traditionally used in cataract surgery, offering superior surgical precision and improved surgical outcomes. We also employ ORA™ (Optiwave Refractive Analysis) with VerifEye™, the most advanced technology available for providing real-time analysis of the eye during surgery. This helps us improve the accuracy of IOL measurement and selection for optimal vision correction.

Intraocular Lens Options

At The Eye Institute of Utah, we offer a number of advanced IOL options to help our patients achieve their clearest vision possible after cataract surgery. Some patients enjoy vision that is clearer than it was before they even developed cataracts. Some of the advanced IOLs we offer include:

Astigmatism-Correcting IOLs,
which can correct astigmatism and distance vision.

Presbyopia-Correcting IOLs,
which can correct the age-related loss of near vision and improve near, intermediate and distance vision. These include multifocal IOLs, PanOptix trifocal IOLs, and extended depth of focus IOLS.

Light Adjustable IOLs,
which your surgeon can fully customize after surgery to help you achieve the clearest vision possible.

Cataract Surgery: What to Expect

Preparing for Cataract Surgery

Once you have been diagnosed with cataracts by one of our specialists, there is not much you’ll need to do in preparation for cataract surgery. You won’t be permitted to drive yourself home after cataract surgery, so you will need to arrange for transportation to and from the procedure.

The Cataract Surgery Procedure

Cataract surgery is performed on each eye on separate days, often within a week or two of each other. While the procedure itself only takes 10-20 minutes, you should plan on being at the surgical facility for up to 3 hours for admission, a physical exam, anesthesia and for time to dilate your eyes.

Before the cataract surgery procedure begins, your eye will be numbed with anesthetic drops. You will recline comfortably during the procedure, and should feel no pain. A device will be used to gently hold your eye open and prevent you from blinking.

To begin cataract surgery, the doctor will make a tiny incision in the surface of your eye. The clouded natural lens of your eye will be removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). The incision is so small that no sutures will be required to close it.

Following your procedure, you will have a protective shield fitted over your eye and will recover briefly at our facility before being released to be driven home by a friend or family member.

Cataract Surgery Process

Recovery After Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure and does not require an overnight hospital stay. Cataract surgery patients generally experience very little downtime, and vision is typically noticeably improved by the next day and continues to improve for several weeks. The majority of patients are back to their regular activities and even driving within 24-48 hours after surgery. Patients will need to take a regimen of prescription drops to help prevent infection and regulate healing for several weeks after surgery, and your eye doctor will review post-operative care instructions with you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cataract Surgery


Will insurance cover the cost of cataract surgery?

Medicare and most major insurance companies will cover standard cataract surgery, but they do not cover advanced technology IOLs, premium testing or Custom Cataract Surgery. While you are in our office for your cataract examination, our surgical coordinators will assist with reviewing your insurance coverage, out of pocket expenses, and review financing options if you are interested in choosing a Custom Cataract Surgery package.

Is cataract surgery painful?

You should not experience any pain during your cataract surgery experience. Your eyes will be numbed with anesthetic drops before the procedure, so you should feel no more than a sensation of scratchiness or slight pressure during the surgery.

What are the potential risks of cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is a very common procedure that is generally considered to be safe. However, there are some risks associated with every surgical procedure. Cataract surgery risk factors, while very rare, may include:


Who is a candidate for cataract surgery?

The best way to determine whether you are a candidate for cataract surgery is to undergo a thorough eye exam with a specialist at The Eye Institute of Utah. in general, candidates for cataract surgery:

Contact The Eye Institute of Utah

At The Eye Institute of Utah, your eye health is our highest priority. If you have been experiencing symptoms of cataracts such as blurry vision or difficulty driving at night, please contact us to schedule a consultation with an eye care expert on our team.

Trused Source Icon - Checkbox Sources

1 Mayo Clinic. Cataract Surgery. Available: Accessed July 7, 2021.

2 American Academy of Ophthalmology. Cataract Surgery. Available: Accessed July 7, 2021.

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The Eye Institute of Utah Doctors have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.