Cataracts, or clouding of the eye’s natural lens, affect millions of people around the world. And having bilateral cataracts (cataracts in both eyes) is also quite common. So wondering if you could have cataract surgery on both eyes at the same time is quite a natural question.
Most surgeons prefer to perform cataract surgery on one eye first, and then the second eye at a later date, usually after a few days or a few weeks.
Lowering Risk of Complications
An important reason for the one-eye-at-a-time decision is that it potentially lowers the risk of complications. Although cataract surgery is very safe and highly effective with low rates of complications, there are risks involved in any surgery. And for most surgeons, any risk of complications, no matter how small, is simply not a risk worth taking.
Allowing For Evaluation and Adjustment
Another reason is that it allows the surgeon the ability to evaluate and adjust. When a surgeon performs cataract surgery on one eye it gives the eye time for recovery and stabilization before doing surgery on the second eye. The doctor and patient can then evaluate the outcome of the first surgery before doing the second. This is particularly advantageous if a patient is getting a multifocal or an accommodating intraocular lens (IOL) in the first eye. These types of lenses provide vision at different distances simultaneously. The surgeon may wish to change the power or the type of IOL for the second eye to allow for the greatest possible freedom from glasses after cataract surgery.
Improvement May Eliminate Need for Second Surgery
Usually, surgeons recommend having cataract surgery when cataracts begin to affect a patient’s ability to perform everyday activities such as reading, driving or watching TV. Sometimes performing surgery on one eye improves symptoms enough that the need for surgery on the second eye is reduced, or possibly even eliminated.
Most surgeons agree that lower overall risks and the possibility of needing only one surgery, are both advantages that make the inconvenience of waiting for a second surgery worth it.