Alternatives to cataract surgery

There are some alternatives to cataract surgery in the early stages.

  • Waiting. Cataract surgery is only required when the cataract affects vision to an extent that routine tasks are impacted. The timing of cataract surgery varies for each individual. Cataracts typically progress slowly. Delaying cataract surgery won’t usually change the outcome of the procedure if you have it at a later stage. If you decide to delay surgery for now, your optometrist or ophthalmologist may recommend periodic reviews to monitor your cataracts and overall eye health.
  • Vision correction. In the early stages, your optometrist or ophthalmologist may recommend a change in glasses or contact lenses to improve your vision.
  • Some cataracts are reversible. If a disease like diabetes has caused your cataracts, they can sometimes be reversed early on by controlling your blood sugar.
  • An eye drop containing an amino acid called acetylcarnosine is an experimental treatment for cataracts. There isn't enough evidence of its effectiveness to recommend it yet.

You can reduce your risk of cataracts worsening by:

  • Avoiding prolonged exposure to sunlight and wearing sunglasses that block ultraviolet B rays when you go out in the sun.
  • Giving up smoking

Some studies show that an adequate intake of vitamin B12 can also reduce the risk of cataracts, but there's no evidence of herbal remedies being effective for prevention or treatment.

When your doctor may recommend surgery

Cataract surgery may be recommended when your vision becomes significantly impaired and glasses or contact lenses are no longer helping enough. Your cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens (lens implant). The implant remains as a permanent part of your eye.

It’s very important to discuss your visual needs and expectations after cataract surgery with your eye surgeon. A critical step in the cataract surgery process is the calculation of the power of the intraocular lens that will replace the natural lens. The calculation process is called biometry. This provides the information for you to discuss the refractive outcome you want before surgery. For example, one option is to aim for equal distance vision in each eye, this will necessitate reading glasses for near vision but often no glasses for distance vision. Another option could be to use one eye for distance and one for near (Monovision), or variations in between. This is an important discussion and as a patient you need to consider the tasks you do regularly, how you’ve used glasses previously and how you might wear them in the future.

Your doctor will usually operate on one eye at a time. It’s usual to wait for the first eye to recover before having surgery on the second eye.

Results vs risks of surgery

The benefits and potential complications of cataract surgery.


Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.