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What is a Secondary Cataract?

A secondary cataract, also known as posterior capsule opacification, occurs when the lens capsule, left behind after cataract surgery, becomes cloudy, affecting vision. It's treatable with a simple laser procedure. Intrigued by how this condition develops and the clarity that treatment can bring? Discover the visual transformation that awaits beyond the haze.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Secondary cataract is a complication of surgery to remove a cataract. It doesn’t occur under other circumstances and people are only at risk for this condition if they have had cataract surgery. Not everyone will get a secondary cataract, but the good news about this disorder is that it can be treated with relative ease.

There’s no specific timeline on when a secondary cataract will occur, but it will definitely occur in the same eye that was surgically treated. Some people develop this condition quite a few years after initial surgery, and others might notice signs of it emerging just a few weeks after they’ve had surgery for cataracts. With a secondary cataract, scarring forms on the eye’s lens capsule, which gets left in place when a cataract is removed. As mentioned, not everyone will have this complication.

Any kind of eye surgery comes with a certain amount of risk for complications.
Any kind of eye surgery comes with a certain amount of risk for complications.

Others might notice some the most common symptom of this condition. This is blurring of vision, which could get progressively worse. Ophthalmologists are quick to point out that such a symptom should never be ignored and they urge people to see their eye doctors quickly if blurred vision is being experienced.

After diagnostic testing, an ophthalmologist can confirm whether secondary cataract is causing changes to vision. If it is, this condition is usually treated quickly and is one the least inconvenient eye surgeries offered by eye doctors. To reduce the blurriness, the doctor uses a laser to remove the lens capsule.

A secondary cataract can be treated with a simple laser surgery.
A secondary cataract can be treated with a simple laser surgery.

Unless a person is having other eye surgery, this is typically done at the doctor’s office, with a tiny amount of material to numb the eye, and with the eyes dilated. In most cases, the procedure is over very quickly and won’t take more than about five minutes. Antibiotic drops may be needed for a few days afterwards to make sure no infection occurs.

Blurred vision is the most common symptom of a secondary cataract.
Blurred vision is the most common symptom of a secondary cataract.

Recovery from surgery for a secondary cataract takes a little longer. Symptoms of blurriness can still continue and some people have floaters, dots or shapes in front of their eyes, just out of the line of sight. Many people do fully recover their vision, though visual disturbances like floaters can persist for a couple of months. Doctors typically schedule a follow-up visit a week or two after the procedure, and this a good time for patients to bring up concerns about continued vision problems.

Secondary cataract only affects individuals who have had cataract surgery.
Secondary cataract only affects individuals who have had cataract surgery.

The removal of the lens capsule in its entirety means that cataracts can no longer form on the eyes. Once people have a secondary cataract and this procedure, that eye shouldn’t get cataracts again. It’s thus important to attend to any new vision change symptoms. Symptoms like blurriness after recovery from a secondary cataract surgery should be brought to a doctor’s attention right away, as this suggests vision problems unrelated to cataracts.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon172437

I had cataracts removed in Nov. 2010. I also have diabetic retinopathy. In the last month, I too have noticed cloudiness and an increase in glare problems. Would love some input from others.

anon168012

I had cataract surgery on both eyes in Feb, 2011. I also have AMD in my right eye. It has become very cloudy within the past month. Can this be a secondary cataract? Or is the progressing of AMD? Can anyone tell me?

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    • Any kind of eye surgery comes with a certain amount of risk for complications.
      By: blueringmedia
      Any kind of eye surgery comes with a certain amount of risk for complications.
    • A secondary cataract can be treated with a simple laser surgery.
      By: Monkey Business
      A secondary cataract can be treated with a simple laser surgery.
    • Blurred vision is the most common symptom of a secondary cataract.
      By: Doreen Salcher
      Blurred vision is the most common symptom of a secondary cataract.
    • Secondary cataract only affects individuals who have had cataract surgery.
      By: chuugo
      Secondary cataract only affects individuals who have had cataract surgery.
    • Cataracts occur when part of the eye is damaged and the eyes' lenses become cloudy.
      By: rob3000
      Cataracts occur when part of the eye is damaged and the eyes' lenses become cloudy.