Does Cataract Surgery Hurt?

There is little or no discomfort during cataract surgery.

You will be awake during the procedure, but steps are taken before and during surgery so you won't feel any pain.

In fact, it's likely you won't remember much of your cataract surgery, even though you are not "put under" general anesthesia like you are in major surgical procedures.

Older woman looking concerned with clenched palms.
Some people prolong their decision to have cataract surgery due to worry that the procedure will be painful.

When you arrive on your day of surgery, you typically will be given a mild sedative to help you relax. Also, anesthetic (numbing) eye drops are applied to your eye to prevent discomfort.

In some cases, you may receive additional medication intravenously during surgery to ensure you remain comfortable, and your cataract surgeon will ask you how you are feeling throughout the procedure.

Medications used before and during your cataract procedure also might make it hard for you to remember what happened during surgery, even though you are awake the entire time.

As your medications wear off after the procedure, you might feel some minor eye discomfort. If so, this typically is mild and can be managed with short-term use of over-the-counter pain medication.

You will be given advice on how to handle any post-surgical discomfort before you leave the surgery center.

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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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