What is PCO?

PCO, or posterior capsular opacity is a condition that affects approximately 20-50% of patients within 2 to 5 years of cataract surgery. This condition is commonly referred to as a secondary cataract, however it is not a cataract and does not require surgery to treat. In this blog, we’ll discuss what causes PCO and how this condition is treated. 

What is PCO?

A posterior capsular opacity occurs when residual cells grow over the back of the membrane that holds the lens implant after cataract surgery. This can cause symptoms similar to a cataract, which is why it is often referred to as a “secondary cataract.” This is the most common complication of cataract surgery, but is not considered a serious complication, as it can be treated with a simple, in-office procedure. 

What are the symptoms of PCO?

The symptoms of PCO are similar to those of cataracts. They include:

  • Blurry or cloudy vision
  • Increased glare
  • Halos around lights
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Colors appear less bright

Who is at risk for PCO?

PCO can occur in anyone who has had cataract surgery. PCO may be more common in people who:

  • Have cataract surgery at a young age, especially in children
  • Are diabetic
  • Have underlying inflammation in the eye
  • Have underlying eye disease such as retinitis pigmentosa
  • Have cataracts caused by trauma to the eye

How is PCO treated?

PCO is treated with a simple in-office laser procedure called a YAG laser capsulotomy. During this procedure, your ophthalmologist will use a YAG laser to remove the cell growth at the back of the membrane. This procedure is painless and typically takes less than 10 minutes. Most patients can return to normal activities immediately after the procedure. 

Will the PCO come back?

In most patients, treatment for PCO is only necessary one time. This condition does not usually reoccur. In very rare circumstances, cells may regrow over the area where the PCO was removed. If this does occur, the laser treatment can be performed again. 

PCO can only be diagnosed by an eye doctor. If you think you may have symptoms of PCO, call (907) 328-2920 to schedule an exam. To learn more about cataract surgery, visit the blog section of our website at https://mountainvieweyes.com/blog/.


Caroline Awh, Jeffrey M Goshe and Kourtney Houser, MD Posterior Capsular Opacity, American Academy of Ophthalmology EyeWiki July 5th, 2020.

Written By:

Gina Stafford, COA, LDO, ABOC

Posted in: Alaska Ophthalmology, Cataract, Cataract Treatment, Eye Doctor in Alaska, Eye Health Guide, Patient Education

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