What You Need to Know about Cataract Surgery Recovery

Cataract surgery recovery time varies from person to person but certain precautionary measures help shorten the time. Learn what you should or should not do for better recovery.

Cataract surgery is recommended to treat cataracts, a condition that changes the lens of the eye to cause blurry, cloudy, or misty vision. The procedure usually takes anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes and involves making a tiny incision in your eye to remove the affected lens. The affected area is then replaced by a plastic lens called intraocular lens or intraocular implant.

Your doctor may carry it out as day surgery while you will be under local anesthesia during the procedure. You can usually go home on the same day but you may have to pay attention to certain things to accelerate cataract surgery recovery. Find out more about it.

What to Expect After Cataract Surgery

Most patients experience no problems with their vision after a few hours of surgery, but it may not always be the case with everyone. Sometimes, the recovery takes longer – it may take a couple of weeks before you see images clearly.

What it implies is that you should not be very concerned if you notice your vision still blurry and cloudy after surgery. It usually happens because your visual system requires time to adjust itself to the new intraocular lens. Here is what more to expect:

  • You may see distortions or wavy vision after your surgery. This usually happens right after your surgery, but resolves in 60 minutes or so.
  • You may develop bloodshot eyes after your surgery, which is normal in most cases. It happens due to short-term damage to blood vessels during surgery. The redness usually dissipates with time.
  • You may notice some bruising in the lower area of your eye in case you receive anesthetic substance through injection. This usually takes a few days to fade.

When to Contact the Doctor

You usually feel much better after a couple of days but cataract surgery recovery may take up to eight weeks. You should contact your doctor if you experience the following issue during your recovery:

  • Vision loss
  • Increased eye redness
  • Pain that does not respond to OTC painkillers
  • Vomiting, nausea, and excessive coughing
  • Light flashes or floats in the eye

Your doctor will schedule another surgery a couple of months later in case you have cataracts in both eyes. This is mainly to give your eye some time to heal first.

Cataract Surgery Recovery Tips

It is possible to resume your normal activities the very next day of your surgery. However, it is still important to take some precautionary measures, at least for the first few weeks after your surgery. These steps help prevent infections and keep you from sustaining any injury.

1.   Take Your Medications

You may get antibiotic eye drops that you have to use regularly to help prevent infections. You may get anti-inflammatory eye drops if you have developed any inflammation in the eye. During the first week after your surgery, you need to use these drops several times daily. Sometimes, you have to use the drops for an extended period, usually up to a month. Be sure to use them as per the instructions of your doctor. If your doctor has given oral pain relievers, always take them as prescribed.

2.   Avoid Certain Activities

During your cataract surgery recovery phase, it is important to avoid certain activities. While you'd be allowed to bathe and wash your hair or face after your surgery, you should avoid the following activities.

  • Do not lift heavy objects and never engage in strenuous activities for the first few weeks.
  • Do not bend your head below the waist level for long.
  • Do not rub, touch, or knock your eye.
  • Do not wear eye makeup for at least one week.
  • Do not let shampoo and soap go into your eyes.
  • Do not go swimming for 2-4 weeks.
  • Do not engage in sports that may increase your risk of sustaining an eye injury.

You can watch TV after your surgery but you may have a blurry vision for the first few days. You can return to work in a couple of days after surgery but you may have to wait longer if your work requires you to keep your head down.

3.   Drive Carefully

You can start driving after a few days of your surgery, but it is important to drive only when you can read a number plate about 20m away with both eyes open. In some cases, you may require glasses to be able to do it, but this may take a few weeks until you get your new glasses.

4.   Wear Glasses after Surgery

You may have to wear glasses for short or long distance vision during cataract surgery recovery, because artificial lens implants usually cannot focus on different distances. Natural lenses work fine in people who are under the age of 50, but some people may require reading glasses even before they undergo a surgery. Studies show that about 70% of people with a multifocal lens and 95% of people with a monofocal lens require glasses after their surgery. Your doctor may recommend an accommodating lens that works quite like a natural lens and offers a better range of focus after your surgery.

5.   Do Not Miss Follow-Up Appointments

Even after you have been discharged from the hospital, your doctor may ask you to show up for a checkup in a few days or weeks. In most cases, you need to come back for a checkup after a week and your doctor will give you another follow-up appointment 4-6 weeks after your surgery. These appointments are important because your doctor will tell you if you should stop using the drops or you need new glasses. You can also discuss any concerns you may have about your recovery during these appointments.

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