One of the most common concerns patients have prior to surgery is what to expect with cataract surgery recovery. When dealing with an area as sensitive as the eyes, that is a valid concern. Fortunately, not only is the surgery itself very effective but cataract surgery recovery is also generally pretty straightforward. Nonetheless, knowing what to expect and what issues are cause for concern post-surgery is important to help alleviate any fears and to go into the procedure with confidence.
What to Expect with the Surgery
Cataract surgery today is safe and effective. In fact, the overall success rate of the surgery is 98 percent according to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.
The procedure is typically performed as an outpatient surgery under local anesthesia. In most cases, patients see clearly within a day of surgery and experience little to no discomfort with minimal recovery time. It is, however, very important to follow the surgeon’s recommendations regarding what to and what not to do after the procedure.
Most ophthalmologists will also require several follow-up evaluations throughout your recovery period. You will likely also return to your surgeon for at least one post-operative visit. This visit often takes place the day following your surgery.
At any rate these guidelines for post-surgery care will help you know what to expect of during your recovery period. If you have specific questions, though, it is best to consult your cataract surgeon or eye doctor who is overseeing your follow-up care.
Immediately After Surgery
After your surgery is complete, you will spend some time in recovery, and your surgeon will review any post-surgery instructions and answer any of your questions. Your follow up appointments may also be scheduled during this time.
In addition to this recovery period, you will also need to:
- Avoid driving for 24 hours after surgery. (You will need someone to drive you home the day of your surgery.)
- Fill your prescriptions for post-operative medications given to you by your surgeon if you have not already done so.
- Remove your eye shield when you arrive home but to continue wearing your eye shield while sleeping.
- Use your eye drop medication as directed to control inflammation and reduce your risk of infection.
- Expect some burning, stinging, and/or “gritty” feeling in your eye.
- Avoid putting pressure on or rubbing your eye.
- Plan to rest comfortably and/or nap and engage in light activity – watching television, reading, and walking – when you return home.
First Few Weeks of Cataract Surgery Recovery
It is also important to be sensitive to eye care needs in the first few weeks following surgery. While there isn’t an extended cataract surgery recovery period, per say, many individuals do experience some light sensitivity as well as grittiness for the first few days after surgery. To avoid eye injury and support the healing process, your doctor will give you specific recommendations. However, at the very least you will want to:
- Avoid getting water in or near the eye, although, you can shower or bathe.
- Attend your post-op visit with your surgeon the day after surgery. You should also bring all of your eye medications to this visit so that your surgeon can review all schedules and dosages with you.
- Have someone drive you home from surgery and to your follow up appointment. You should not resume driving until your eye doctor has cleared that it is safe for you to drive, which is typically within the first day or two after surgery.
- Expect some grittiness or slight sensitivity to touch for the first few days after surgery. If, however, you experience an increase in discomfort, contact your doctor.
- Anticipate seeing glares or halos surround lights for the first few weeks post-surgery. If you continue to experience these symptoms or they do not subside, though, contact your doctor.
- Continue using your eye medications according to your prescribed schedule. You may also need to use artificial tears if your eyes feel excessively dry; keeping your eyes moist will speed healing.
- Wait until you can safely return to driving, work, and normal activities. Ask your surgeon when it is safe for you to resume these activities.
- Consult your ophthalmologist or optometrist if your vision remains blurred after a week or so. You may need corrective eyewear.
Two or More Months of Cataract Surgery Recovery
Between two and three months after your surgery, your eyesight should return to normal, and any discomfort should subside. Some individuals do experience some lasting changes post-surgery, so you may need to adjust your glasses prescription with your doctor. In any case, you should also:
- Wear protective eyewear when you are outdoors or in the sun.
- Wear safety glasses or sport glasses when playing sports, operating power equipment, using hand tools, or performing any other task that may raise your risk of eye injury.
- Be aware that a secondary cataract can develop two to four months (or more) after surgery.
A secondary cataract does not cause loss of vision in the same way as a primary cataract. This issue is actually the clouding of the clear sac or lens capsule that holds the natural lens in place. The vision loss associated with a secondary cataract can be reversed with a painless outpatient surgery. If you experience your vision worsening two or more months after surgery, contact your surgeon to see if this might be the issue.
Cataract surgery is routine and typically does not require a great deal of recovery time. However, knowing what to expect regarding cataract surgery recovery as well as the surgery itself will give you peace of mind as you approach the procedure. In most cases, giving yourself time to rest and recover after your surgery, following your doctors prescribed plan for medication, and avoiding potentially injury-causing activities is all you need to do during cataract surgery recovery.