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What is a Secondary Cataract?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon172437 — On May 03, 2011

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.

By anon168012 — On Apr 15, 2011

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?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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