Cataract Surgery

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Duke eye surgeons perform thousands of cataract surgeries each year and can often restore your vision. We remove your cloudy lens using small incisions and sophisticated techniques, including highly precise lasers and ultrasound. We employ the latest lens designs to clear your vision and reduce your need for glasses.

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Improved Vision Through Cataract Surgery

Blurry or hazy vision and nighttime glare may be a sign that you have a cataract. A cataract occurs when the normally clear lens inside the eye becomes cloudy or opaque. Age is the most common culprit, but medication use, diseases (like diabetes), and trauma can also cause the lens to cloud. A cataract can also be present at birth. When a cataract affects your vision, your best option is the surgical removal of the cataract and placement of an intraocular lens (IOL) that permanently corrects your vision.

Cataract Surgery
This outpatient procedure takes less than 15 minutes to perform and requires only light sedation. Your surgeon makes a tiny incision with a small tool or a laser then uses ultrasound energy to remove the cataract. An artificial lens -- called intraocular lens or IOL -- is then implanted in the eye to replace your clouded lens. It is made of a foldable plastic material that lasts a lifetime. 

Recovery After Cataract Surgery
You will be sent home with a clear eye shield and can return to most activities within a few days. Most people experience no pain and have a rapid recovery with improved vision. It may take up to one month to achieve final results.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Lens Options

Recent advances in intraocular lens technology and design allow us to offer multiple options to improve your vision with cataract surgery. Your cataract surgeon will discuss your individual situation and what you can expect from surgery. This will help determine which implantable lens is right for you.

Monofocal Lenses

This standard lens is covered by most insurance companies. It offers high-quality vision, and some can filter ultraviolet light, which may help protect you from macular degeneration. These lenses generally correct your distance vision, but you will need glasses for computer work, reading, and other near-work activities. You may also need some correction for the best distance vision. For some patients, these lenses may provide monovision -- with one eye corrected for distance vision and the other eye for near vision.

Astigmatism-Correcting Lenses

Toric lenses have a special shape and use targeted power to correct astigmatism for the best distance vision. This lens has an additional charge above most insurance coverage. Glasses will still be required for computer and near work.

Presbyopia-Correcting Lenses

Multifocal and extended-depth-of-focus lenses correct presbyopia -- the loss of near vision due to aging eye muscles. These lenses provide distance-, intermediate-, and near-vision correction and can make you less dependent on glasses for most activities. It may still be necessary to wear reading glasses occasionally for very small print or in low-light situations.

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Tests for Cataract Surgery

Slit-Lamp Microscopy

A magnified, 3D examination of the structures at the front of the eye is performed by your ophthalmologist

Corneal Topography and Tomography

A computer-guided device creates a 3D image map of the cornea to measure corneal power, curvature, and thickness


This test measures the curvature of the cornea’s front surface to assess astigmatism

Corneal Pachymetry

Ultrasound waves measure the thickness of the cornea

Ocular Biometry

This test measures the length of the eye and the curve if your cornea to calculate the appropriate power of your IOL. 

Optical Coherence Tomography

OCT is a non-contact imaging test of the internal structures of your eye. It may be performed before cataract surgery to evaluate your eye health.

Why Choose Duke

A Team of Experts
Cataract surgery is the most common surgery performed at the Duke Eye Center. Our surgeons are leaders in the field, employing innovative surgery techniques and devices. We are always seeking new ways to improve patients’ experiences and results.

Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery
Some people may benefit from the use of lasers to help make the incisions, soften the cataract, and correct astigmatism during cataract surgery. 

Astigmatism Correction
If your cornea is not completely round, called astigmatism, you may have blurring or distortion of your vision -- this is typically corrected with contacts or glasses. After careful evaluation, your surgeon may recommend one of two options to correct your astigmatism. We may use a special artificial lens implant, or we may recommend an alternate procedure called a limbal relaxing incision (LRI). A small incision is created to reshape your cornea and reduce astigmatism. LRI can often be performed at the same time as your cataract surgery manually or with a laser.

Simple Secondary Cataract Treatment
In a small percentage of cases, scarring or a secondary cataract may form on the membrane that supports the implanted lens. If this occurs in the months or years following your cataract surgery, we perform a short, painless, in-office laser procedure to create an opening that lets light shine through and eliminate the secondary cataract.

Compassionate, Supportive Environment
Deciding to have surgery on your eyes should not be taken lightly, and we are honored to be part of your journey to restore your vision. At Duke, our surgeons perform a comprehensive exam using the latest diagnostic equipment. This allows for the most accurate measurements to help plan your cataract surgery. We also offer patient support services including educational materials and programs. Out dedicated team of technicians, staff, and doctors will walk you through the steps and decision-making process associated with cataract surgery. 

Best Eye Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our ophthalmology program is ranked seventh in the nation and is the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2024–2025.

This page was medically reviewed on 09/12/2023 by