Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataract surgery removes the clouded lens to restore vision. In some cases, secondary cataracts may develop after this procedure.

During cataract surgery, a surgeon replaces the affected lens with an artificial lens. In most cases, this improves vision. However, in some instances, secondary cataracts may develop and require further treatment.

This article discusses whether cataracts can come back after surgery. It also looks at what happens during cataract surgery, what to expect after surgery, cataract symptoms, and more.

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About 9 in 10 people who undergo surgery for cataracts experience improved vision

The posterior capsule is a membrane that protects the eye lens. After cataract surgery, this membrane continues to protect the artificial lens.

Some people may experience secondary cataracts, or posterior capsular opacification, after surgery. This causes clouding of the posterior capsule.

However, this is not the return of the original cataracts.

Secondary cataracts typically develop around 2–5 years after initial cataract surgery. It can affect 20–50% of people after cataract surgery.

It is best for a person to speak with their doctor about the risks of cataract surgery.

The number of procedures required may vary between individuals. In most cases, a person will receive cataract surgery on one eye at a time. The doctor may recommend surgery on one eye and then the other eye several weeks later, once the other eye heals.

In very rare cases, a person may have cataract surgery on both eyes on the same day. However, due to the risk of complications, doctors generally avoid recommending this.

Future laser treatments for secondary cataracts may also be necessary.

In cases of secondary cataracts, a doctor will generally recommend a laser capsulotomy. This quick and effective procedure uses lasers to remove secondary cataracts.

Cataract surgery is a quick procedure that surgeons typically perform while a person is under mild sedation.

To begin this procedure, a surgeon removes the lens of the affected eye. They then replace the lens with an artificial lens made of plastic.

The entire procedure typically takes around 30 minutes, though it may take less or more time. Most individuals who receive cataract surgery can return home the day of the procedure.

Learn more about cataract surgery.

After cataract surgery, vision may not fully return for a few days. Some common side effects following cataract surgery include:

  • watery eyes
  • blurred or double vision
  • redness in the eyes
  • bloodshot eyes

Most people experience relief from these side effects within a matter of days. However, full recovery can take up to 6 weeks.

After surgery, a doctor typically prescribes antibiotic, steroid, and anti-inflammatory eye drops.

It is important to follow a doctor’s instructions for at-home care after cataract surgery. These may include:

  • taking eye drops the doctor prescribes
  • keeping the eye clean
  • wearing an eye shield when sleeping
  • avoiding rubbing the eyes
  • avoiding driving until the doctor says it is okay
  • avoiding strenuous physical activity
  • avoiding wearing eye make-up

Learn more about what to expect after cataract surgery.

The symptoms of cataracts can vary between individuals. Some of the most common cataract symptoms include:

  • blurry vision
  • difficulty seeing at night
  • having trouble seeing colors
  • light sensitivity
  • double vision

Following cataract surgery, secondary cataracts may also develop. Secondary cataracts can also cause cloudy vision. It is best for individuals with a history of cataract surgery to contact their doctor if they experience vision problems after cataract surgery.

Learn about the early signs of cataracts.

Here are some frequently asked questions about cataracts.

Can your vision change after cataract surgery?

In most cases, cataract surgery helps restore normal vision. Cloudy or blurry vision may occur immediately after this surgery because of swelling. However, regular vision should return within 4–6 weeks following cataract surgery.

Can you have cataract surgery twice in the same eye?

During cataract surgery, a surgeon replaces the affected lens with an artificial lens. As they replace the original lens, the original cataract will not come back, meaning cataract surgery for that cataract is only necessary once.

However, some individuals may develop secondary cataracts following cataract surgery. A simple laser technique can remove these growths and restore vision.

How many years does cataract surgery last?

The artificial lens inserted during cataract surgery can last a lifetime. Up to 95% of people who have cataract surgery experience improved vision. In most cases, a single cataract surgery will suffice for cataract treatment.

What causes cloudiness in the eye after cataract surgery?

Cloudiness in the eye may occur because of swelling immediately after cataract surgery. It may also occur if secondary cataracts develop.

What happens when cataracts come back?

When secondary cataracts develop, they may cause vision problems such as cloudiness or blurred vision. If these occur, a quick laser procedure can help remove these growths and restore vision.

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataract surgery replaces clouded lenses with artificial lenses. Most people who undergo cataract surgery experience improved vision following this procedure.

In certain cases, secondary cataracts may occur after cataract surgery. These growths may cause similar symptoms to those of a cataract. However, they are not the same as the original cataract.

It is best for a person experiencing vision problems or symptoms of cataracts to contact a doctor. They can perform an evaluation and offer guidance around treatment options.