Cataract surgery involves the permanent removal of a cataract – the cloudy lens that can cause blurry vision if left untreated. Once removed, it is replaced with an artificial, clear lens that is designed to last for life and will not need further replacement. So, in a sense, the answer to the question: “How long does cataract surgery last?” is, “Forever”.

Allon Barsam looking into a cataracts eye: How long does cataracts last?What you can expect after surgery

You may be wondering how long it will take to notice an improvement in vision following the cataract surgery procedure. Most people can expect to notice the effects of the new artificial lens within a day, with vision reaching its maximum level of improvement after about a month.

You will have an eye test around 4-6 weeks following the procedure to determine your new prescription. Many patients can completely dispense with glasses for distance vision following the surgery, although almost all will still require reading glasses for close-up work.

Special Lenses, known as premium intraocular lenses can be used at the time of surgery so that reading glasses are not necessary. These lenses include multifocal lenses, toric lenses, multifocal toric lenses and extended depth of focus lenses. Your surgeon should discuss these options with you at your consultation.

Long term benefits

In most cases, the effects of cataract surgery last a long time, with the majority of patients experiencing long-term improved vision, free of side effects. Following surgery, most patients avoid the need for additional visual aids for many years. How long the benefits of cataract surgery will last without further visual complications will, of course, depend on the individual and any other visual conditions they may have.

The success rate for cataract surgery is very high, with 97% of patients enjoying improved vision with no complications.

Posterior capsule opacification

Following cataract surgery, a minority of individuals do experience the onset of visual problems similar to those caused by cataracts, with symptoms including blurry vision and difficulty with glare from bright lights. This relatively common phenomenon is caused by a condition known as posterior capsule opacification (PCO) and can occur at any time from a few months to several years following the surgery. The good news is that it can be treated quickly and easily.

Close up of eye: How long does cataract surgery last?PCO does not indicate a return of the cataracts. Instead, it is caused by a thickening of the lens capsule that secures the artificial lens in place, which happens due to a growth of cells at the back of the lens capsule. How long this takes to occur, if at all, will vary from patient to patient.

The treatment for posterior capsule opacification is a quick, simple and routine procedure, using a laser to open up the lens capsule and allow the eye to function again. This low-risk type of laser surgery is called a Nd:YAG laser capsulotomy and can be performed as an outpatient procedure.

Following a Nd:YAG laser capsulotomy, patients can expect their sight to return to normal within a few days. They should now experience the same level of sight that was originally restored by the cataract surgery, with the same outlook for the future as patients who do not develop PCO.

Speak to your surgeon

If you have more questions about how long cataract surgery will last, or any other aspect of the procedure, do not hesitate to ask your surgeon. They will be able to give detailed and specific information based on your individual medical history and visual conditions.