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What are the Risks of Cataract Surgery?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Most risks of cataract surgery are well known, and the benefits of performing the surgery often outweigh the risks. Especially since many of the risks associated with cataract surgery are anticipated, surgeons often inform patients specifically of the risks of cataract surgery and the symptoms associated with each potential complication. Occasionally developing some of the problems associated with cataract surgery may necessitate an additional surgery to repair damage.

The most common of the risks of cataract surgery is infection within the eye, called endopthalmitis. This occurs in about one in every 3000 surgeries even with preventative precautions. The main preventative for endopthalmitis is treatment with antibiotic eyedrops prior to performing the surgery.

Patients might suspect this infection if they feel excessive pain, note redness around the eye, have vision loss, or light sensitivity. These symptoms usually occur in the initial days following cataract surgery and should be brought immediately to the attention of your surgeon. Treatment consists of injecting antibiotics directly in the eye.

Another of the risks of cataract surgery is cystoid macular edema. Though this is rare, swelling in the eye can cause the retina's blood vessels to start leaking fluid. Patients with this condition notice a decrease or change in their vision caused by the inflammation. Treatment for this complication usually consists of anti-inflammatory drops for the eyes. In rare instances, surgery may be necessary to reduce the swelling.

Retinal detachment is also one of the risks of cataract surgery, and people with the condition may see flashes of flight or notice floaters and visual loss. This is an emergency condition requiring immediate treatment. Retinal detachment is most common among those who have extreme nearsightedness (myopia), but it is still an uncommon result, occurring in only an estimated .5% of people who have cataract surgery.

Two other risks of cataract surgery are posteriorly dislocated lens material and choridal hemorrhage. During a surgery, parts of the lens material may slip into the fluid filled, or vitreous cavity of the eye. This needs to be removed to reduce inflammation with a surgery called a vitrectomy.

Choridal hemorrhage used to be one of the more common risks of cataract surgery. In this condition, the network of blood vessels supplying the retina, called the choroid, begin to bleed. This bleeding can result in partial to total loss of vision. It is most common in people who are elderly, or who have hypertension, but in all cases refinement of surgical technique with much smaller incisions has significantly lowered this risk in the past few years.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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