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FAQ: Cataract Surgery

Before the operation

When should I be operated?

Patients often assume that a cataract must be well advanced before surgery is necessary. This is not correct. If your ophthalmologist sees signs of cataract and you start to notice visual disturbances, you should ask your ophthalmologist about the options available to you before it starts to affect your quality of life.

What happens if cataracts are left untreated?

Left untreated, the cataract progresses. Your lens becomes increasingly opaque. The rate at which cataracts develop varies from person to person, but the end result is always the same: once the lens is completely clouded, the result is blindness. Furthermore, more advanced cataracts are more difficult to remove: the surgery takes longer and the risk of complications rise, so it’s important not to wait too long for surgery.

How is the eye anesthetized?

In most cases, the operation is performed by means of a local anesthesia with eyedrops. General anasethesia is very, very rare in cataract surgery, and is used only in very special cases.

Will I be awake during the operation?

Yes. If necessary, your surgeon will also provide you with painkillers and medicines to help you relax during the procedure.

How long does the surgery take?

The surgery itself typically lasts between 15 and 30 minutes. However, if you add up the total time you spend with us (preparation, surgery, rest afterwards), the entire process takes between 2–3 hours.

Can I wear make-up on the day of surgery?

No. Make-up near the eye (especially eyeliner and mascara) may contain pigment particles as well as bacteria. We ask that you do not use make-up three days before surgery and one week after surgery.

Should I stop taking my eye drops before surgery?

No. Continue with all medications until the day before surgery as normal. Do not use eye drops in the eye that will be operated on the day of surgery. Eye drops for the other eye can be used as normal.

Do I need to fast beforehand?

Please do not eat any food for at least 4 hours before the operation, however, a cup of tea on the morning of the operation is allowed.

Which lens is right for me?

The choice of artificial, or intraocular lens (IOL), that patients receive during cataract surgery depends on their lifestyle and their visual needs. Your surgeon will make a clear recommendation based on your stated needs. However, it is recommended that patients understand what monofocal, multifocal lenses, and toric lenses are and how they work before this meeting.

Should I come with company?

This would be easier. The painkiller we give you may make you feel dazed, which can make using public transport problematic.

After the operation

How long before I can return to work?

You’re usually ready to return to work within one week, and in rare cases, two weeks.

Can I play sports / take a shower / apply make-up after the operation?

In the first week, you can run the shower, ensuring that no water gets in your eyes. You can apply make-up after ten days – but you must take care not to rub when removing make-up, only dab. Sporting activity is possible again after two weeks, but please avoid exerting yourself for the first six weeks (i.e. no red cheeks from effort). The same applies to the lifting of heavy objects.

Will I have pain after surgery?

Pain after surgery is rare. We give you painkillers. If pain persists you should contact the surgeon.

How fast should the second eye be operated on?

The answer will vary from case to case and will be discussed with you by the surgeon. Often we leave 2 weeks between the eyes.

When do the inspection dates take place?

The follow-up appointments are usually one and two days after the operation, followed by one week, one month and three months.

When can I have my new glasses fitted?

Due to the healing of the eye, it can take 12 weeks before vision has finished stabilising, at which point we can make a definitive spectacle prescription, but in many cases, it is possible to fit a provisional lens after about 1 week. In Switzerland, the post-surgery spectacle lenses are covered by the so-called “MIGEL list”.

Which eye drops do I need after the operation?

All necessary eye drops are given to you after the operation. As a rule, eyedrop therapy lasts four weeks.

What should I do for pain, nausea and a red eye immediately after surgery?

Low pain and mild nausea may occur after surgery. In case of severe pain, please contact the surgeon immediately. The emergency number will be communicated to you on the day of the operation.

I see poorly after the operation.

Vision in the first few days after the operation may be impaired. This is usually not permanent. If any further action is required, the  surgeon will discuss this with you directly.

General questions

Advantages and disadvantages of multifocal lenses and toric lenses

In some circumstances, the implantation of special (multifocal) lenses that allow close and distant vision is also possible. To find out whether this is the case with you, the doctor will talk to you directly during the preliminary examination.

Can the lens be replaced?

In principle, this is possible, but is done only in exceptional cases, as unnecessary operations should be avoided. However, if the lens exchange is indeed necessary, then this can be done in a short intervention.

Does the material of the lens last a lifetime?

Ophthalmology now has over 50 years of experience in the materials used to make the lenses. A modern intraocular lens lasts a lifetime.

Is an operation in the ELZA Institute more expensive than in a public hospital?

No. Despite the high quality standards, the prices of the ELZA are the same as in a public hospital.

I live in another Canton. Is the surgery still covered by health insurance?

Yes. The services are uniformly regulated throughout Switzerland, whether you live in Geneva or Chur.

Will the artificial lens become cloudy later?

No. At most, something called “posterior capsule opacification” can develop, but this can be removed easily with a laser, on an outpatient basis, without having to reopen the eye.

Will the cataract also be treated with a laser?

Yes, today we can gently treat the cataract with a femtosecond laser. The removal of cataract by femtosecond laser is the most advanced method of cataract surgery and we use it regularly. However, it is not yet covered by Swiss health insurance companies.

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