Posterior Capsular Opacification: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
If you develop a new blurred or cloudy spot in your vision after cataract surgery, it’s likely to be posterior capsule opacification (PCO).
PCO is a relatively common complication of cataract surgery that happens to about 10-20% of patients in the UK which is treated with a quick outpatient laser eye procedure.
What is posterior capsular opacification?
When you have PCO, it can look like the cataract has re-occurred. The condition is sometimes misleadingly called a secondary cataract, but you cannot develop another cataract once you have had surgery.
In a cataract operation, the surgeon removes the cloudy lens from the capsule that contains your lens. They then replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).
PCO happens when a film of tissue forms in the capsule behind the lens implant, which decreases the clarity of your vision. It is called posterior capsule opacification (or posterior capsule opacity) because it:
- appears at the back of the lens capsule
- and the capsule becomes thickened and opaque (less transparent)
PCO can develop in both eyes – if you had cataract surgery in both – but it may affect each at a different time.
Find out more about the signs and symptoms of PCO in our video below:
What are the symptoms of posterior capsule opacification?
In most PCO cases a hazy membrane can form on the lens capsule and, as a result, light cannot pass through to the retina as easily. This causes symptoms that are like those of the original cataract, including:
- Hazy, cloudy or blurred vision
- Double vision
- Glare or ‘halo’ effect around lights
- Reduced ability to focus
How soon can PCO occur?
If you are wondering how quickly PCO can develop after cataract surgery, the simple answer is – it varies.
PCO grows over time, which can be many weeks, months or even some years after your cataract surgery.
If you had a cataract operation recently and have problems with your vision, you should contact your eye specialist as soon as possible.
In general, the younger you are when you have cataract surgery, the greater the chances of developing PCO.
What is the treatment for posterior capsule opacification?
PCO causes gradual vision impairment, like an actual cataract. When it begins to affect your daily activities, you may want to seek corrective treatment.
You can have a procedure called YAG laser capsulotomy to restore your vision. This is usually a safe, painless outpatient procedure that takes just a few minutes.
An ophthalmologist uses this laser treatment to open up a small part of the affected lens capsule, allowing light to pass through again. Once this is done, it is very rare for PCO to return.
To learn more about this treatment, please go to our YAG laser capsulotomy page.
Book an appointment
If you have cloudy or blurry vision after cataract surgery, book an appointment to get tested for posterior capsule opacification.
Our expert ophthalmologists can diagnose your condition and offer a fast resolution.
During your initial appointment, you will receive a thorough eye exam and will be able to ask any questions you have about PCO.