Risks and Complications of Cataract Surgery


Cataract surgery is a common and safe procedure that can dramatically improve your quality of life. During cataract surgery, the natural, clouded lens is removed and replaced by an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). Although the vast majority of patients experience a problem-free surgery, cataract removal, like any surgery, has some risks and complications associated with it.

Common Complications

  • Posterior Capsule Opacity (PCO)1. One of the most common postoperative conditions with an occurrence rate of 20-30%, PCO involves clouding of the lens capsule, a clear elastic membrane structure that surrounds the lens and anchors it in place. During cataract surgery, every effort is made to remove the natural lens cleanly and with minimal disruption to the lens capsule. However, in some cases, after the artificial lens is placed, microscopic cells may begin to grow and thicken on the inner portion the capsule (the posterior side), creating an opacity. This secondary clouding of vision is known as posterior capsule opacity.
  • Dislocated Intraocular Lens2 (IOL). After cataract surgery, the IOL may be malpositioned or become dislocated. The malposition of the IOL may be due to its original placement during surgery or may be the result of external factors, such as eye rubbing or trauma.
  • Swelling of Cornea or Retina3. After surgery, fluid may accumulate in the retina. Known as cystoid macular edema, this retinal swelling can blur central vision. In addition, fluid may build up in the cornea. Diabetics are at higher risk for this complication.
  • Ptosis4. Post-surgical ptosis is a condition that is characterized by a droopy eyelid. With a reported incidence of up to 6%, ptosis may be caused by different factors, including postoperative swelling (edema), a reaction to anesthesia, and surgical technique.

Treatments for Complications

Treatment for complications varies, depending on the issue and severity.

Posterior capsule opacity can be treated safely and effectively with laser technology. In a straight-forward procedure known as a YAG laser capsulotomy, a laser removes the cloudy, opaque area and restores normal vision.

The risk of a dislocated IOL is very low; but should it occur, it should be addressed promptly with a second procedure to adjust the position of the IOL.

Retinal inflammation can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids that can be administered as eye drops. Corneal swelling usually clears on its own. Occasionally, saline drops may be used to draw out the excess fluid. In extremely rare cases where the swelling has progressed to the point of severely impairing vision, surgical intervention may be needed.

Post-surgical ptosis is often temporary and will resolve on its own. However, if the condition persists and interferes with vision, eyelid surgery may be required.

Your Consultation with the team at Beach Eye Medical Group, Orange County

If you have had cataract surgery and are experiencing complications, it is important to have your eye examined as soon as possible to avoid further problems. At Beach Eye Medical Group, our qualified team is available to evaluate and treat complications related to cataract surgery. Not only do we treat the most difficult cataracts with state-of-the-art technology, but we are also often looked upon as expert consultants to manage conditions and complications other eye doctors cannot. Contact our Huntington Beach office today to schedule an appointment.

1 Cataract surgery complications and side effects. Available:
2 Intraocular Lens Dislocation. Available:
3 At a glance: Corneal Conditions. Available:
4 The aging eye: when to worry about eyelid problems. Available:

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