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Ask the Doctor About Cataract Surgery

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As we get older, many of us will be faced with cataract surgery in one or both eyes. Recently, a reader asked us: How long should I wait between eyes if I am going to have cataract surgery in both eyes? Here's what we recommend.

Surgery for cataracts involves removing all or part of the lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens implant (IOL). Cataract removal is the most frequently performed surgery in individuals over age 65 and is considered by many doctors to be the most effective surgical procedure in all of medicine. If the eye is normal except for the cataract, surgery will improve vision in more than 95% of cases.

The standard wait time is long enough for the first eye to heal completely, typically at least two weeks. Ophthalmologists like to wait between cataract surgeries in case there's a serious problem with the first procedure, such as infection. Waiting also allows the surgeon to adjust the procedure for the second eye based on results from the first one. Sometimes, patients change their mind about what type of implant they want to use in the second eye based on results with the first.

Although waiting at least a few weeks between cataract surgeries is standard, sometimes it makes sense to perform both procedures within a shorter period. For example, if the patient is very near-sighted or far-sighted before cataract surgery, the large difference in vision between the two eyes after the first surgery can leave the patient feeling imbalanced. Performing cataract surgery in both eyes on the same day is done only under extremely rare circumstances because of the danger of exposing both eyes to surgical risk at the same time.

Posted in Vision on September 17, 2010
Reviewed January 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer

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Health Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the Johns Hopkins editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Johns Hopkins Medicine or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.

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