When asking about what to expect after cataract surgery, some patients want an explanation of the do’s and don’ts of cataract surgery recovery, while others simply want to know when to expect results. Improved vision is, after all, the main reason most individuals pursue blade-free or traditional cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery, especially blade-free cataract surgery, is extremely safe. At the same time, it’s natural to want to know whether there are any cataract surgery side effects and after-effects to be worried about. In this post, we’ll learn what to expect after cataract surgery over time, including information about recovery.
Getting ready for cataract surgery? See our before and after surgery checklist in our guide to Prepping for Cataract Surgery.
How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?
Your rate of recovery will be highly dependent on the health of your eyes. However, most people can return to work one to three days after cataract surgery, and, for some it may take your eyes between three and six weeks to recover completely from the procedure.
You and your doctor should discuss your personal recovery plan before your procedure.
What to expect after cataract surgery: The day of the procedure
1. Directly after the operation
The cataract procedure itself does not take very long (between 10-20 minutes per eye). If you have been sedated or anesthetized, you will need to rest in a recovery area after your procedure for about 30 minutes to an hour.
2. Getting home
One of the first things you’ll need to do after cataract surgery is to go home and rest. However, since you’ll still be recovering from sedation, you must have someone drive you home (please note, we cannot release you to a uber or taxi driver). Before the surgery, please designate a driver (be it a friend, family member) for your transportation.
3. Vision quality the day of the procedure
Directly after your cataract surgery, you are going to experience fluctuations in the clarity of your vision that cause an overall effect of blurriness. What causes blurred vision after cataract surgery? Blurriness is most frequently caused by your eye getting accustomed to its new lens. Most patients state that their vision becomes less cloudy only 48 hours post-op.
Keep in mind, if you have floaters, they may be more visible now that you are seeing through a clear lens.
4. Activities to avoid after cataract surgery
Obviously, you will want to avoid touching your eyes directly after cataract surgery, along with the following activities:
- Strenuous exercise and heavy lifting: Exercise and heavy lifting can put pressure on your eyes. It’s fine for you to walk and to do very light physical work after your surgery, but most doctors recommend that you not bend over or lift objects for at least 24 hours after the surgery. In fact, they recommend that you avoid lifting and strenuous exertion completely until your eyes have healed.
- Cooking: As with any surgery, your body is going to experience fatigue during your recovery time. For many, that fatigue has led to difficulty in finding the energy to cook regularly, or at all. Cooking may also expose your eyes to steam or splatters of food or oil. If you like to cook, it’s wise to plan and prepare several days’ worth of meals before your surgery. If you don’t like to cook, purchasing pre-cooked meals before your surgery can save you a lot of unwanted stress.
- Swimming pools and hot tubs: Next to rubbing and touching your eyes frequently, getting into a swimming pool is perhaps the next worst thing you can do if you’re trying to prevent infections. The bacteria and chemicals in both public and private swimming pools are simply not good to have near eyes recovering from surgery. Swimming after cataract surgery is to be avoided, as is lounging in a hot tub or sauna.
- Wearing makeup: This may go without saying, but you will want to avoid applying makeup directly after your cataract surgery. Your eyes are more sensitive to infection during this time, and makeup (especially previously used makeup) can be a hotbed of bacteria. Additionally, the chemicals used to remove makeup can be harsh and are not good to have around an eye that is recovering from recent cataract surgery
5. Sleeping position after cataract surgery
We often receive questions about how to sleep after cataract surgery. Typically, cataract surgery shouldn’t actually affect your sleeping position, but if you have concerns about rubbing the eye during your sleep, you may wish to try sleeping on your back or on the opposite side of the eye which was operated on. In general, it’s more important to get quality sleep than it is to sleep in the perfect position.
What to expect after cataract surgery: The first week
1. Follow-up appointments and eye drops
Typically, patients are asked to come back for a follow-up examination both one day directly after the surgery and for another appointment one to two weeks after the procedure. These appointments help check on the health of your eye and on the new lens.
In the interim, your doctor will likely have prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammatory eye drops to help reduce any swelling, discomfort, and risk of infection during the recovery process. Use these as recommended.
2. Fluctuations in vision quality
Patients may still be experiencing blurriness and fluctuations in vision quality during the first week of their recovery, with blurriness improving within a few days. How long does it take for your vision to stabilize after cataract surgery? Again, the vast majority of patients experience a significant degree of vision stabilization during the hours, days, and weeks after surgery, but some may continue to experience blurriness for a month or two.
The length of your vision stabilization time during recovery often depends on which cataract surgery lens options you chose to have implanted.
Typically, patients who opt for Monofocal intraocular lens (IOL), the standard IOL that’s covered by most insurances, can expect a slightly longer time before adjusting to their new vision. This is the case because Monofocal lenses correct only nearsightedness or farsightedness, but not both. Patients typically opt to correct for nearsightedness (for seeing far away objects) and then rely on glasses to help them see objects near-at-hand.
3. Activities to (continue to) avoid
As mentioned previously, most people can return to work one to three days after their cataract surgery. It is still highly recommended that you continue to avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting, cooking, swimming, hot tubs, and the use of heavy makeup during this time. After the first week or two, you can start incorporating many of these activities back into your routine with the exception of swimming. It is best to avoid swimming pools and hot tubs entirely until your eyes have completely recovered.
What to expect after cataract surgery: Six weeks post-op
After six weeks, your eyes should be healed and your vision mostly (if not completely) stabilized. Depending on the choice of IOL you made, you may now be able to enjoy a completely glasses-free lifestyle! Once this time period has elapsed, you should also feel safe participating in the activities listed above, including swimming.
Are there side effects of cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is the world’s most common surgery. It is also one of the safest, with the vast majority of patients seeing (literally) positive outcomes. Outside of initial blurriness and dry eyes, side effects after cataract surgery are infrequent and rarely threatening.
However, patients may experience a few side effects. These are very rare and are typically caught during your post-operation checkups.
- Endophthalmitis: Blurriness after cataract surgery is sometimes indicative of a complication called endophthalmitis. Endophthalmitis is an inflammation of the eye’s interior, caused most frequently by an eye infection. Endophthalmitis is typically treatable with additional surgery and antibiotics.
- Posterior capsular opacification (CPO): Posterior capsular opacification, often called a “secondary cataract” is another type of clouding of vision after cataract surgery. This complication is typically treatable with laser surgery. For more information, please see our article: Can Cataracts Come Back After Surgery?
What to Expect After Cataract Surgery at Eye Center of Texas
Having performed over 80,000 successful cataract surgeries, the surgeons of Eye Center of Texas have transformed the lives of thousands of Houstonians. The most common cataract surgery after-effects we’ve seen? Improved vision!
Put your vision in the hands of nationally renowned blade-free cataract surgeons, and call us at 713-797-1010 or request an appointment online today to get started on your journey to better vision.
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