Cataract Surgery: Frequently Asked Questions

Before Surgery

Does medical insurance cover all the costs of cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery with a monofocal lens is covered by most insurances and Medicare as long as you meet guidelines. You are still responsible, however, for co-payments, co-insurance, and deductibles that are unique to your plan. Advanced technology lenses that reduce the need for glasses after surgery are NOT covered by insurance. This includes toric (astigmatism-correcting) and multifocal lenses. For these lenses, insurance and Medicare still pay for the cataract surgery itself, but you are responsible for the cost of the advanced technology lens.
 

How do I find out how much it will cost me out-of-pocket after insurance?
Our surgical coordinator can provide you with the CPT billing codes. You can then call your insurance company and provide these codes to get the best estimate of your out-of-pocket costs. You will be billed by the surgeon, anesthesiologist, and surgery center (a facility fee).
 

How do I decide which implant to have?
Which type of implant is best for you depends on your vision, lifestyle, eye anatomy, surgeon’s recommendations, expectations and budget. Your surgeon or the surgical coordinator will help you choose the type of IOL to best match these factors. 
 

If I need surgery in both eyes can it be done at the same time?
No. To allow for proper healing and evaluation, each eye is done typically 1-4 weeks apart.
 

Will my eye color be the same?
Yes. Cataract surgery does not change the color of the iris.

During Surgery

How long does the surgery take?
Most patients are at the surgery center for about 2 hours for preparation, surgery, post-operative observation, and instruction. The cataract removal and lens implantation procedure itself takes only 10-15 minutes.
 

How will I keep my eye open for surgery?
The eye being operated on is held open with a special device called a lid speculum, so you don’t have to worry about blinking. Your other eye will be able to open and close as normal.
 

Will I see the surgery instruments and what is happening during my operation?
No. Your non-operative eye is covered with a sterile drape. With the operative eye, patients describe seeing an abstract kaleidoscope of lights, shapes and colors. You cannot see any instruments or details. 
 

Is the surgery painful?
It should not be painful. If you start to experience any discomfort, please let the surgery team know. Keep in mind that you may feel being touched and/or pressure and fluid around the eye during surgery.
 

Will I be asleep for the surgery?
Surgery is performed under what is called “conscious sedation,” which is often used for dental and medical procedures (like a colonoscopy). The medication given by the anesthesiologist will make you very relaxed and decrease any anxiety. You will not be completely awake or completely asleep. You will breathe normally (there are NO masks or tubes) and be able to respond to verbal commands. You may or may not remember the surgery. It is normal to be aware of what is happening and to hear the surgical staff speaking. Typically, patients are even more aware of their surroundings when their second eye is done.

After Surgery

Can I drive home after surgery?
No. Because of the sedation, it is not safe to drive the day of surgery. If you do not have someone to drive you home, your surgery will be cancelled. Your driver can wait in the reception area or come back when you are done. You can drive again the day after surgery, if the vision in your non-operated eye is good. 
 

Will I have stitches or have to wear a patch?
Most surgeries are performed without the need for stitches or a patch, but your surgeon may use one or both. Stitches and patches do NOT indicate a problem and will NOT affect your final vision.
 

Will my eye be red or bruised after surgery?
It is not uncommon during surgery for the skin around the eye to become bruised and/or a blood vessel on the eye’s surface to break causing the eye to turn red (a “subconjunctival hemorrhage”). This is normal. Both occurrences will NOT damage vision and will resolve on their own without treatment over 2-3 weeks.
 

Who will I see for follow-up?
Depending on your surgeon’s schedule and any prior arrangements with your referring optometrist, follow-up visits will be with your surgeon, other doctors at Eye Care Specialists, or your optometrist.
 

How long until I can return to normal activities?
Please refer to the detailed instruction sheet given to you when your surgery was scheduled. Generally, avoid heavy lifting, bending with your head below your waist, and excessive rubbing of the eye for one week after surgery.
 

After surgery, will I be able to drive at night?
For the first several days after surgery, you will still see significant glare and haloes. Eventually, your vision should significantly improve, however, cataract surgery does NOT eliminate all glare and haloes at night.
 

Will I ever need cataract surgery again?
No. Once a cataract is removed, it cannot grow back. Occasionally, however, the remaining capsule or sac that holds the lens implant in place becomes cloudy through a process of normal cell regeneration—causing vision to blur. If this “posterior capsular opacification” (or, back capsule clouding) occurs, clear vision is easily restored with a painless, 30-second, outpatient laser procedure.
 

Can the lens implant be replaced if it doesn’t work?                
Lens implants can be exchanged, however, this is RARELY necessary. Exchanging an implant involves another surgery and additional risks. There are other options which can be considered as well. 
 

Will the experience be the same for both eyes?                      
Because structural anatomy and vision can vary between eyes, it is very common that patients have a different experience for each eye.
 

Can I have LASIK after cataract surgery?                          
Yes. However, it is usually not necessary because most of your glasses prescription is incorporated into the lens implanted at the time of surgery.
 

If I need glasses or contacts after surgery, how soon can I get a prescription?      
You can get a new prescription approximately 4 weeks after cataract surgery.

When Was Your Last Eye Exam?

Remember, the best way to protect your vision is to schedule regular, thorough, dilated eye exams to check for hidden signs of sight-threatening conditions. Ask yourself and your family members—"When was your last eye exam?" If it was more than two years ago, it's time to pick up the phone.

For more information or a comprehensive examination . . .

Since 1985, Eye Care Specialists has provided comprehensive medical, surgical and laser care for virtually every eye condition to more than 185,000 people. If you would like one of our free educational booklets on any of the eye concerns reviewed on this website, please complete this form or call our Communications & Education Department at 414-321-7035. To schedule a comprehensive eye examination or a second opinion evaluation, call any of our three convenient Milwaukee-area locations directly.