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.
To ensure the best possible outcome and to minimize your risk of complications after cataract surgery, it’s important to carefully follow the instructions regarding what to do and what not to do after your cataract procedure.
The checklist below will help you know what to expect and what to do during your cataract surgery recovery.
Immediately After Cataract Surgery:
- At the completion 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 will be given dark sunglasses to wear in order 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 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 bathe or shower, but avoid getting water in or near your eye.
- Typically, you will have a follow-up visit with your surgeon the day after surgery. Have someone drive you to your follow-up visit. Avoid driving until the doctor has verified that it is safe for you to do so.
- Wear dark, ultraviolet (UV) protective sunglasses when outdoors.
- Your eye may still feel a little gritty and/or sensitive to the touch for a few days after surgery.
- It is not unusual to experience glare and halos around lights during the first few weeks after surgery.
- Continue to use your eye drop medications according to the schedule your surgeon gave you. He 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.
Within 2 to 3 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 LASEK or PRK often can be performed to sharpen your eyesight.
Be aware that a common complication of cataract surgery — called a secondary cataract — can develop 2 to 4 months (or longer) after surgery.
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 surgeon will advise you about how your eye is healing and when your vision has stabilized.