Cataract Surgery Complications & Problems After Cataract Removal

Reviewed by:

Jason Jacobs, MD & Paul Koch, MD

Cataract Surgery complications and problems after Cataract removal are generally pretty rare and are sually less than 5% in an otherwise healthy group of patients.  In patients with additional eye diseases such as Glaucoma or Diabetic Retinopathy the complication rate may increase. Nonetheless the overall success rate for Cataract Surgery is generally regarded as being between 85-92% with overall patient satisfaction being in the 95% range. As with any surgery, patients should be familiar with possible complications so that they can bring any unusual symptoms or signs to the attention of their Cataract Surgeon in order to help avoid potential complications of Cataract Surgery, Cataract Surgery problems or unusual side effects after Cataract removal.

Short Term Cataract Surgery Complications

Short term Cataract Surgery problems and complications are those that we will define as occurring during or very soon after the actual surgical procedure-perhaps within the first 24 hours after surgery.

  • Bleeding-Bleeding is a very unusual complication of Cataract Surgery. Bleeding inside the back of the eye is quite rare. While bleeding can occur inside the front of the eye where the actually surgery is being performed, this too is rare-especially since the tiny incision is made in the clear portion of the Cornea where there are no blood vessels. If bleeding does occur it is usually limited to the surface of the eye where your surgeon can easily cauterize it and stop it immediately.

  • Bruise or “Black Eye”-If it was necessary to use an injection around your eye in addition to or in place of anesthetic eye drops due to some factor regarding your overall health you may experience some temporary bruising around your eye. Although unusual, it does happen from time to time.

  • Wound or Incision Leak-For the vast majority of patients the tiny incision placed during Cataract Surgery is self sealing. Sometimes the Corneal incision does not seal properly and may actually leak-a situation that may expose you to infection. If this occurs your Cataract Surgeon may apply a contact lens or a pressure bandage or in certain cases place a stitch in order to help the incision seal.

  • Endophthalmitis or “Inner Eye Infection”-Infection after Cataract Surgery is extremely rare occurring in one out of several thousand Cataract Surgery procedures. Nonetheless it is a serious complication of Cataract Surgery. To prevent infection, Cataract Surgeons place antibiotic eye drops in your eye before, during and after your surgery. In the rare event that you experience an Endophthalmitis, your surgeon may recommend a procedure to take a culture of your infection and to administer antibiotics directly to the eye. Sometimes another operation is necessary to aspirate some of the infection. If swelling inside the eye without infection does occur it may be possible to treat the inflammation and swelling with a prescription of anti-inflammatory eye drops.

  • Rupture of the Posterior Capsule-During your Cataract Surgery the cloudy or opacified lens material is “chopped up” and suctioned to remove it from your eye. However the membrane that surrounds the lens is left in place to support the Intraocular Lens Implant. Occasionally it is possible that the posterior lens capsule will tear or rupture during your surgery. If this happens the surgeon will perform Vitrectomy as part of your surgery in order to remove and repair the Vitreous Body that may have extended into the remaining capsule so that Intraocular Lens Implant (IOL) can be properly set into position.

  • Retinal Detachment-Retinal Detachment after Cataract Surgery is unusual. However if you are extremely nearsighted you may be at greater risk for Retinal Detachment in general and especially when you have any type of eye surgery including Cataract Surgery. The symptoms of Retinal Detachment include floaters, flashing lights, a shadow in your vision, a bubble or curve in your vision, a sensation that a curtain or a veil is being pulled in front of your vision and a possible loss of your vision. If you experience ANY of these symptoms after Cataract Surgery you should call your Cataract Surgeon immediately as Retinal Detachment is a medical emergency. The shorter the time to treatment, the better the overall prognosis.

  • Glaucoma-In general secondary Glaucoma after Cataract Surgery is very unusual. However if there is other bleeding or inflammation it can predispose you to developing secondary Glaucoma after Cataract Surgery. In most instances Secondary Glaucoma after Cataract Surgery is temporary and can be treated with eye drops, laser treatment or a combination of both.

  • Significant Astigmatism-In the event that it was necessary to use sutures or stitches because the Corneal incision did not seal properly, it is possible to distort the shape of the Cornea and induce astigmatism. Sometimes swelling of the Cornea alone can cause astigmatism to be induced. If swelling alone caused the induced astigmatism then it will gradually go away as the swelling diminishes. If the astigmatism was caused by the use of stitches, then once they are removed it is likely that the Cornea will return to its original shape.

Long Term Cataract Surgery Complications

Long term Cataract Surgery problems and complications are those that we will define as occurring from one week to as long as six months after Cataract Surgery.

  • Decentered or Dislocated Intraocular Lens Implant (IOL)-While it is very rare, the artificial Lens Implant (IOL) used to correct your vision after Cataract Surgery can move slightly becoming decentered or move a greater amount and become dislocated. A decentered or dislocated Lens Implant (IOL) may cause you to experience blurry vision, haloes, glare, double vision, fading vision, fluctuating and varying vision or shimmering vision. If this should occur your Cataract Surgeon will most likely reposition the Lens Implant (IOL) or replace it with a different Lens Implant.

  • Cystoid Macular Edema-During the first three months or so after Cataract Surgery it is possible for the Macula, the visual center of the Retina, to be susceptible to microscopic swelling. Swelling of the Macula is likely to cause you to experience a decrease or blurring of your central or straight ahead vision. This can be mild or it can be significant. In most cases, Cystoid Macular Edema is treated with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication given as an oral and/or eye drop prescription.

  • Secondary or After Cataract-The most common complication of Cataract Surgery is opacification of the posterior lens capsule resulting in the formation of a Secondary or After Cataract, which occurs after as many as 30% of Cataract Surgery procedures. When this occurs you will experience a gradual blurring of your vision. Fortunately your surgeon is able to use a YAG Laser to perform a quick painless procedure called a YAG Laser Capsulotomy in which a small opening is created in the cloudy membrane allowing your vision to be restored.

Problems and complications of Cataract Surgery are unusual if not rare. The overall success rate and patient satisfaction with Cataract Surgery make it a very safe and effective treatment for Cataracts. Nonetheless, those undergoing Cataract removal with Cataract Surgery and Lens Implants should become familiar with the possible albeit unusual complications.

The information that has been provided here is intended to give patients an overview of the possible complications of Cataract Surgery. It is possible that your individual experience might be different. None of the information provided here is meant to be a substitute or replace your physician’s consultation nor does it replace the need for you to consult with your surgeon about specific details of Cataract Surgery complications.

text size
cataracts, cataract, cataract surgery, cataract patients

AcrySof®ReSTOR® is a registered trademark of Alcon, Inc., ReZoom™ and Technis® are registered trademarks of
Abbott Medical Optics and Crystalens® is a registered trademark of Bausch & Lomb.