When should I have cataract surgery?

Cataracts can be removed at any stage. You don’t have to wait for them to “ripen” before having surgery.

Making the decision to have your cataracts removed depends on a number of things:

  • how badly your sight is affected
  • whether you have any other eye conditions
  • if you only have sight in one eye
  • how you use your sight from day to day.

The decision to have your cataracts removed comes down to whether the benefit of having the operation outweighs the small risk attached to the surgery.

If you have no other eye conditions or health concerns, then the benefit of having your cataracts removed usually outweighs the risk of surgery. For example, if you’re finding it difficult to read, use a computer or drive, then removing your cataracts may be necessary.

The timing of surgery is different for everyone. If you make your living by driving, for example, you may need your cataracts removed earlier than someone who doesn’t drive.

If you have another eye condition, it may be possible to have your cataracts removed, but there may be more concerns about complications. Your ophthalmologist (also known as a hospital eye doctor) may want to delay the operation for as long as possible to put off the slight risk of the surgery, but this needs to be balanced with how much of your sight is being affected by cataracts.

If you have sight in only one eye, your ophthalmologist may recommend putting off surgery for as long as possible. Having sight in only one eye doesn’t make the cataract surgery more difficult, but any serious complication which affects your sight would mean the outcome is worse when compared to someone with sight in both eyes. By delaying the operation for as long as possible, this risk is avoided until the operation is really necessary.

Once you are offered surgery for your cataracts, it’s your decision when to have your cataracts treated. Cataracts only affect the lens and no other part of your eye. If you decide to put off surgery, your sight will become increasingly cloudy, but the results of your surgery, no matter how delayed, will be the same as if you had it done earlier. You don’t have to worry that you’re permanently damaging your vision by delaying surgery.