During cataract surgery, your natural eye lens will be replaced with a synthetic, artificial lens. Without a natural lens in your eye, it’s not possible for cataracts to grow back again after surgery.

A patient gets their eyes examined with special equipment at the eye doctor's office, with a light that shines into their eyes so the doctor can detect cataracts. Share on Pinterest
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Cataracts are a cloudy area in the lens of your eye, which can cause vision problems. This is a very common condition — more than half of all Americans aged 80 and older either have cataracts or have had surgery to remove them.

If cataracts make it hard for you to see clearly, your eye doctor might recommend surgical removal. Cataract surgery is a very common procedure. It’s also very safe, although, like any surgery, it does have some risks.

Keep reading to learn more about cataract surgery and whether cataracts can return after having surgery.

Cataracts form when the lens in your eye begins to absorb water. The lens, which was initially transparent, will start to take on a cloudy discoloration when this happens.

Because the lens is no longer transparent, the light rays that enter your eye will be distorted, causing vision issues. Surgery is the only way to get rid of cataracts.

During cataract surgery, which typically takes about 30 minutes, the eye surgeon will numb your eye, remove the clouded lens of your eye, and insert an artificial lens.

Because the natural eye lens is removed in cataract surgery, it removes any protein that could break down and cloud your vision. As a result, cataracts cannot grow back after surgical removal.

When you have cataract surgery, the eye surgeon replaces your natural lens with an intraocular lens (IOL). Because this lens is made out of synthetic material, it won’t break down the same way a natural lens will.

Sometimes, after surgery, you may develop a condition called “secondary cataract.” This condition — technically called posterior capsular opacification — can cloud your vision, but it’s not really a cataract. It affects the part of the eye that holds the lens, not the lens itself.


When you have cataract surgery, your natural eye lens is replaced with an artificial lens that’s made from synthetic material. As a result, cataracts cannot grow back after surgery.

In most cases, cataract surgery only needs to be done once, especially since cataracts can’t grow back after surgery. But there are some rare situations where you might need corrective surgery after the initial cataract surgery.

Follow-up surgery or procedures might be necessary if:

  • the eye surgeon can’t remove all the natural lens fragments, usually because some fragments have fallen into the back of the eye
  • there’s posterior capsular opacification, which is when the transparent membrane that holds the IOL gets cloudy (if this happens, you might need to have a quick, painless laser procedure done to restore clear vision)
  • the IOL moves out of place
  • there’s a detached retina (this is a very rare complication of cataract surgery, and is more common in younger people)

It usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks to fully recover from cataract surgery, although you’ll likely notice an improvement in your vision within a few days. You’ll have scheduled appointments with your eye surgeon after your surgery so they can check on your healing.

For the first few days after surgery, it’s common to experience:

  • eye itchiness
  • blurriness
  • sensitivity to light
  • eye discomfort, dryness, or irritation
  • watery eyes
  • red or bloodshot eyes

To help your eyes heal, your eye surgeon will likely advise against the following for the first few weeks after cataract surgery:

  • getting soap or water in your eyes
  • swimming
  • rubbing your eyes
  • lifting heavy objects
  • doing strenuous exercise
  • flying, unless you get approval from your doctor

After cataract surgery you’ll typically also have to:

  • use prescribed eye drops for a few weeks
  • wear dark sunglasses outside
  • wear a protective shield over your eye while you sleep, for the first few days after surgery

Symptoms to watch out for

Although cataract surgery is typically a safe and effective procedure, problems can still occur. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • eye pain that doesn’t go away with medication
  • severe headache
  • decreased vision
  • vision loss
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • a sudden increase in floaters or dark spots in your vision
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If cataracts affect your vision, your eye doctor may recommend cataract surgery. This is the only way to get rid of cataracts. During surgery, your clouded natural lens will be replaced with an artificial intraocular lens made from synthetic material.

Because your natural lens will be removed, it won’t be possible for cataracts to grow back after you’ve had surgery.

It’s common to have blurry vision, watery or red eyes, and eye sensitivity for a few days or weeks after cataract surgery. Your eyes will likely be fully healed within 4 to 6 weeks.