Cataract Surgery Recovery
Modern cataract surgery is very safe and effective. In fact, according to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, the overall success rate of cataract surgery is 98 percent.
Typically, the procedure is performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia, and the cataract surgery recovery time is minor. Most patients see clearly the day after surgery, with little or no discomfort.
But to ensure the best possible outcome and to minimize your risk of complications after cataract surgery, it's very important to carefully follow your eye surgeon's instructions regarding what to do and what not to do after your cataract procedure.
Your cataract surgeon or your general ophthalmologist or optometrist will perform several follow-up visits during your cataract surgery recovery. Usually, you will return to your cataract surgeon for at least your first post-operative visit the day after surgery.
This checklist will help you know what to expect and what to do during your cataract surgery recovery. For answers to specific questions, consult your cataract surgeon or the eye doctor who is performing your follow-up care.
Immediately After Cataract Surgery
- At the conclusion of your cataract surgery, a lightweight protective shield will be placed over your eye, held in place with surgical tape. This shield will decrease the risk of injury from inadvertently rubbing or accidentally bumping your eye.
- You also will be given dark sunglasses to reduce light sensitivity during your trip home.
- You might feel a little groggy immediately after surgery, especially if you were given a medication to help you relax during the procedure.
- You may spend some time in a recovery area, where your cataract surgeon or an assistant will answer any questions and review post-surgical instructions. Your follow-up appointments may be scheduled at this time as well.
- Typically, you will not be allowed to drive for 24 hours, so someone will need to drive you home.
- If you have not already done so prior to surgery, you should fill the prescriptions for post-operative medications your surgeon gave you.
- When arriving home, you may be allowed to remove your eye shield, but you should wear it when sleeping for at least a week to prevent eye injury.
- Apply your eye drop medications as instructed to control inflammation and reduce the risk of infection.
- Some burning, stinging and/or "gritty" feeling to the eye is normal.
- Do not rub or put any pressure on your eye.
- It usually is okay to engage in light activity such as reading, watching television and walking immediately after cataract surgery, but you may want to simply rest comfortably or nap in bed when you return home.
The First Few Weeks After Surgery
- You can bath or shower, but avoid getting water in or near your eye.
- Typically, you will have a follow-up visit with your cataract surgeon the day after surgery. Bring all your eye medications with you for this visit so you and your surgeon can review the appropriate schedule and dosage for each drug.
- Have someone drive you to your follow-up visit. Avoid driving until your eye doctor has verified that it is safe for you to drive.
- Wear dark, ultraviolet (UV) protective sunglasses when outdoors.
- Your eye may feel a little gritty and/or sensitive to touch for a few days after surgery. But if you have significant and increasing discomfort, contact your eye doctor.
- It is not unusual to experience glare and halos around lights during the first few weeks after surgery. However, contact your eye doctor if these symptoms worsen or do not subside with time.
- Continue to use your eye drop medications according to the schedule your eye doctor gave you. Your doctor also may recommend frequent use of artificial tears if your eyes are dry. Keeping your eye moist will help it heal faster.
- You should be able to drive, return to work and resume your normal activities within a week. Ask your surgeon when it is safe to resume specific activities.
- If your vision remains blurred after a week or so, you may need corrective eyewear. Typically, your eye should heal at least a couple weeks before your eye doctor prescribes new glasses.
Two to Three Months After Surgery
- Within two to three months after cataract surgery, your eye should be comfortable and your vision should be clear.
- If you have residual nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, you may need prescription eyeglasses. To reduce your need for glasses, a laser vision correction procedure such as LASIK or PRK often can be performed to sharpen your eyesight.
- Whether or not you need to wear corrective eyewear, you should wear UV-protective sunglasses when outdoors. This is true even if a UV-blocking intraocular lens (IOL) was implanted in your eye during cataract surgery.
- Purchase a pair of comfortable sport or safety glasses to wear when playing sports, working with hand tools, operating a lawnmower or other power equipment, or performing any other tasks that potentially could cause an eye injury.
- Be aware that a common complication of cataract surgery called a secondary cataract can develop two to four months (or longer) after surgery.
A secondary cataract does not cause vision loss in the same way as a primary cataract. Actually it is a clouding of the posterior portion of the clear sac (lens capsule) that holds the natural lens in place. This capsule is left in the eye during cataract surgery to prevent serious complications when the cloudy lens is removed.
Vision loss from a secondary cataract can be reversed with a painless outpatient procedure called a laser capsulotomy. If you feel the clear vision you achieved after cataract surgery begins to worsen two or more months after surgery, consult your eye surgeon to see if you need this follow-up procedure. Your surgeon may use a glare or contrast sensitivity test to determine the level of vision loss before the capsulotomy procedure is performed.
It's important to be patient and not expect perfect vision immediately after cataract surgery. It takes some time for your eye to heal completely, and it is not unusual to experience fluctuations in your vision for several days or even a few weeks after surgery.
During your follow-up visits, your eye doctor will advise you about how your eye is healing and when your vision has stabilized.
If you choose one of several FDA-approved multifocal IOLs (i.e., ReZoom, ReSTOR, or Tecnis) to reduce your need for prescription eyeglasses or reading glasses after refractive cataract surgery, it often takes a while before you are fully satisfied with your vision. This is because vision is a complex process that involves not just your eyes but also your brain, and it can take some time for the brain to fully adapt to multifocal IOLs for optimum vision. If the cataract procedure is performed with a laser, then recovery time may be shortened and the visual outcome for near vision may be better.
Also, if you have cataracts in both eyes, don't judge the quality of your vision until you have had surgery on both eyes. This is particularly true if you choose a multifocal or accommodating IOL (Crystalens) to restore vision at all distances.
Ed. note: This information is for general education purposes only and is intended for U.S. residents. It is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice from your eye doctor.
Note: This information is for general education purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice from your eye doctor or refractive surgeon.