Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures in the world. Proper aftercare supports a quick recovery and optimal results.(Learn More)

Following surgery, it is important to adhere to your ophthalmologist’s eye care instructions. Use eye drops as prescribed, wear protective glasses or eye shields, and take extra care to keep water and soap out of the eye.(Learn More)

After surgery, there are certain activities to avoid in order to let your eye heal properly. Avoid swimming, driving, makeup, and strenuous exercise until your doctor clears you to do so.(Learn More)

The recovery period varies from person to person, but many people are able to start doing their regular activities relatively quickly following cataract surgery. For example, some people are able to drive the day after surgery, while it can take up to four weeks for others to be able to safely drive.(Learn More)

It is important not to rush the recovery period. Adhering to your aftercare instructions and giving yourself time to heal properly will reduce the risk of experiencing negative side effects or complications.(Learn More)

Cataract Surgery Aftercare

During cataract surgery, the eye’s natural lens that has become clouded by cataracts is removed and switched with a clear artificial lens. The procedure is considered to be very safe, and most people achieve positive results following surgery. While the surgery is relatively straightforward, it is important to follow your eye surgeon’s aftercare instructions closely.

You may experience clearer vision immediately, but you must still give your eyes time to rest and recover. It’s essential to protect your eyes from exposure to bright lights and from anything that may enter the eye. Being diligent about your aftercare will help ensure the best vision results as well as reduce the risk of complications, such as eye infection or inflammation.

What to Do Following Surgery

Immediately after surgery, you will likely remain in the recovery room for 15 to 30 minutes before you can go home. After this short waiting period, you will be sent home with a set of aftercare instructions.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains that you can expect the following in the days or weeks following surgery:

  • Your doctor may prescribe eye drops to prevent possible infection.
  • Do not get soap or water directly in the eye.
  • Do not press on or rub your eye.
  • You may be given protective glasses to wear while the eye heals.
  • You will likely need to wear a protective eye shield while sleeping.
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors and in bright lights.

It is normal to have some side effects following surgery. Symptoms — such as mild aching; watering, red, or bloodshot eyes; and blurred or doubled vision — frequently occur following cataract surgery, but they typically clear up within a few days or weeks.

If your doctor prescribed eye drops to fight off infection, you will likely need to start using them the morning after your operation. Always wash your hands before administering eye drops and only put them into the eye that was operated on.

Eye drops are typically prescribed for one to four weeks following cataract surgery. Your doctor will clarify how frequently and for how long you should use them.

What to Avoid After Surgery

While recovery time from cataract surgery is quick and some people feel great immediately after surgery, there are still a few things to avoid doing right away. For the first few weeks after surgery, it is important to avoid:

  • Rubbing your eye.
  • Driving until your doctor clears you to do so.
  • Engaging in strenuous exercise.
  • Wearing makeup for at least four weeks.
  • Flying until your doctor says it’s okay to do so.
  • Swimming for four to six weeks.

It is fine to shower or bathe as you normally do, but extra attention should be given to keep soap and shampoo out of your eye. Some doctors recommend wearing your eye shield while washing your hair to prevent anything from running into your eye.

Reading, watching television, and using a computer are typically acceptable activities to do immediately after surgery, though you should avoid overly bright lights and staring at screens for extended periods of time.

If something feels like it is straining your eyes, stop doing it. Consult your doctor if you are experiencing persistent pain, blurriness, or other issues.

When Can Regular Activities Resume?

Everyone recovers from cataract surgery at their own pace, but most people can return relatively quickly to their regular activities. It’s safe to read and watch television right away, but it may take longer to safely return to some activities such as driving. Some people are able to drive the day after surgery, while others take up to four weeks to be able to drive again.

Ultimately, aim to take it easy for at least a few days following surgery.

If you still need eyeglasses following surgery, you will have to wait six weeks to be fitted with a new prescription. At this time, the eye should be fully healed and an accurate prescription for your new vision needs can be given.

If you play sports, your doctor will advise you not to play any sports where you could be hit in the eye for a few weeks. After six weeks, most people are considered to be fully recovered from cataract surgery and able to participate in whatever they like to do once again.

The Risks of Doing Too Much Too Soon

If you don’t follow your doctor’s aftercare instructions well or start to do too much too soon following surgery, you risk developing complications related to the eye, explains AAO. Risks associated with cataract surgery include:

  • Infection of the eye.
  • Retina swelling.
  • Bleeding in the eye.
  • Swelling of the eye.
  • Detached retina.
  • Injury to other parts of the eye.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Visual issues, like seeing halos, glare, or dark shadows.
  • Vision loss
  • Implants that may move out of position.

Prior to surgery, your ophthalmologist will address the risks and benefits of surgery with you and what you can do to optimize your eye health and surgery outcomes. Recovery from cataract surgery is relatively quick, and diligent aftercare can help improve recovery time and positive results.

While it can be tempting to attempt to accelerate the recovery process, this isn’t wise. Your surgeon will clearly outline what you can and can’t do after cataract surgery, and it’s important to follow these instructions closely to ensure the most complete healing process.

References

Cataract Surgery. (September 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Recovering From Cataract Surgery: What You Need to Know. BMI Healthcare.

Recovery: Cataract Surgery. (December 2017). National Health Service UK.

Recovery After Cataract Surgery. (April 2016). Acta Ophthalmologica.

Visual Restoration After Cataract Surgery Promotes Functional and Structural Brain Recovery. (April 2018). EbioMedicine.

Optimization of Cataract Surgery Follow-Up: A Standard Set of Questions Can Predict Unexpected Management Changes at Postoperative Week One. (September 2019). PLOS ONE.

Cataract Removal. MedlinePlus.

Postoperative Cataract Care: The Aravind Perspective. (2016). Community Eye Health Journal.