Recently published literature shows that most patients experience a variety of visual sensations during cataract surgery under local anaesthesia. Most patients (80–100%) retain at least some light perception in the operated eye and many also experience a variety of other visual sensations during cataract surgery under regional ophthalmic anaesthesia (retrobulbar, peribulbar and sub-Tenon's blocks) or topical anaesthesia. The visual sensations experienced include perception of movements, flashes, colours, changes in brightness, or the sight of surgical instruments, the surgeon's hands or fingers, or even the surgeon. These findings are clinically significant because 3–16.2% of patients who had cataract surgery under either regional or topical anaesthesia were frightened by their intraoperative visual experience. Fear and anxiety may cause some patients to become uncooperative during the surgery and may also induce a sympathetic stress response that might cause hypertension, tachycardia with myocardial ischaemia, hyperventilation or an acute panic attack. These effects are especially undesirable as the majority of cataract patients are elderly and have concurrent medical problems. Besides increasing the risk of intraoperative complications, a frightening visual experience may decrease patient satisfaction. Appropriate preoperative counselling has been shown to be effective in reducing the patients' fear. As most patients retain some visual function during cataract surgery under local anaesthesia, anaesthesia providers should be mindful of this phenomenon and offer appropriate preoperative information and counselling to their patients.