Surgery – Can you see during cataract surgery?

In the vast majority of cases, cataract surgery is performed using a local anaesthetic, which is administered using eye drops, rather than a needle; meaning that the patient is awake during their cataract surgery.

The area around your eye will be cleaned using an iodine cased solution, then a sterile sheet will be fixed above your head and chest, sticking to the area around your eye to create a sterile zone around the eye that will be operated on.

As you’ll be awake during your surgery, you’ll be able to see. However, to carry out the procedure, the surgeon will use a very strong microscope and a very bright light to magnify your eye. The light is all that you’ll be able to see during the cataract surgery.

Whilst staring at the light for the duration (usually around 5-10mins) of your surgery, you may see colours and experience other visual phenomena, as a result of staring at the bright light continuously.

Indeed, several studies(1)* have been carried out to see how often these phenomena occur and which colours are most commonly seen; it appears that around 80% of patients see colours during their cataract surgery. Most see blue and red. Although pink, yellow, green, purple, turquoise and orange are also reported. Additionally, nearly all patients who experience these colours during their cataract surgery find the experience pleasant.

To conclude, despite the fact that you’ll have your eye open and be able to see during your cataract surgery, the reality is that you won’t really see anything. You most definitely won’t see the procedure being carried out.



  1. U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Which colours are seen by the patient during cataract surgery? Results of an intraoperative interview

Other related questions

  • Glasses – Why do I need glasses after cataract surgery?

  • Surgery – What does an eye look like after cataract surgery?

  • Surgery – How is a cataract operation performed?

  • Near-sighted – Does cataract surgery correct near-sightedness?

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