When Should Cataract Surgery Be Avoided?


There are very few cases when cataract surgery is contraindicated or should be avoided.

The primary considerations when deciding when to have cataract surgery is whether the procedure will provide a noticeable and significant improvement of vision and can be performed safely.

In cases of early cataracts, vision often can be adequately improved simply with a change of eyeglass prescription. But in other cases, even mild cataracts can cause vision problems that a change of glasses or contact lenses won't help.

Man holding his chin while considering a yes-or-no question.
Should you avoid or postpone cataract surgery? In certain cases, your surgeon might recommend that you do so.

Your eye doctor can help you decide when the time is right for you to have cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is very safe and effective, but the rewards and risks of eye surgery should be carefully considered.

In some cases, serious eye problems can coexist with cataracts, and these problems may limit gains in vision that are achievable with cataract surgery.

For example, if you have advanced macular degeneration or a detached retina as well as cataracts, it's possible that removing the cataract and replacing it with a clear intraocular lens (IOL) might not improve your eyesight. In such cases, cataract surgery may not be recommended.

Cataract surgery generally requires only short-acting medications, and you are not "put to sleep" with general anesthesia for the procedure. Therefore, cataract surgery does not cause significant risks for patients with heart or lung conditions.

Also, prior LASIK or other vision correction surgery is not a contraindication for cataract surgery.

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Dr. Vance ThompsonAbout the Reviewer: Vance Thompson, MD, FACS, is the director of refractive surgery at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls, S.D. He also is professor of ophthalmology at the Sanford USD School of Medicine, a leading researcher in technologies for laser and implant vision correction and a member of All About Vision's editorial advisory board.

Page updated August 2017


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