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What Eyedrops Are Best to Use After Cataract Surgery?

Amarpreet Brar, M.D.

Medically Reviewed by Amarpreet Brar, M.D.

Fact Checked
8 sources cited

Last Updated

After cataract surgery, your doctor will provide a list of instructions to follow to help you heal. Many of the bullet points on that list will concern eye drops. The best drops to use after cataract surgery are those listed on your take-home instructions.

Your doctor is likely to give you prescription eye drops, including some that reduce inflammation and others that combat infection.

Your doctor may give you some leeway in eye drops designed to soothe redness and itching. In general, you should choose products that are free of preservatives.

You will heal best when you use your drops properly. That means waiting between doses and ensuring the bottle never touches your eye. You should call your doctor if sudden pain or shifts in your vision happen, as that could be a sign that something has gone wrong with your eyes.

Prescription Eye Drops

man using eyedrop

Eye drops are specifically used to protect the eyes from infection, relieve redness, and reduce the inflammation associated with the healing process.

Some prescription drops have antibiotics, some have steroids, some are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and others are designed to combat extra dryness.

Types of Prescription Drops

Your doctor may give you a prescription for one or more of the following types of drops:

  • Steroid drops: These drops treat pain and inflammation. There are different types and strengths. Your doctor will prescribe the ones that are best for your situation.
  • Antibiotic drops: Antibiotic drops prevent infection. Doctors sometimes inject antibiotics directly into your eye immediately after surgery, but you may also be asked to use antibiotic drops after you get home.
  • NSAID drops: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drops also treat pain and swelling in addition to light sensitivity.

How to Apply Eye Drops

Here are some tips on how to put drops in your eyes:

  1. Grab a box of tissues and wash your hands thoroughly before you start. You will be touching parts of your eyes in the process.
  2. Sit down or lie down.
  3. If sitting, tilt your head back.
  4. Gently pull down your lower eyelid.
  5. Use your forehead or the bridge of your nose to brace your hand and make it steady. Squeeze a drop into the eye.
  6. Do not touch your eyes with the bottle’s tip! This can contaminate the drops.
  7. Once a drop is in, close your eyes, blink some, and then close your eyes again.
  8. With a clean tissue, blot away any excess liquid.
  9. If you have multiple eye drops to use, wait a few minutes before applying different types.

In addition, remember to follow any post-surgical instructions your doctor or doctor’s office gave you.

How to Heal From Surgery

family with happy kids

You will have plenty of drops for your eyes after surgery, and you will have other written instructions from your doctor to follow. As much as you might want to return to your presurgical life, it’s critical to follow instructions carefully.

For example, your doctor will probably tell you to wait a few minutes before putting different types of drops in your eyes. Each product does something a little different to speed healing, and using all of them at once could blunt the impact.

You should be on alert for complications. Those include:

  • Redness in the eyes you haven’t noticed before.
  • New floaters or flashes of light in your vision.
  • Vision loss.
  • Intense pain.

If you spot these symptoms, call your doctor right away and ask for an appointment. They can perform a quick exam and determine the next steps to help you recover.

Most people feel a lot better after about a week, and by that time, you might be able to return to all your normal activities. But your doctor might want to see you a few more times for assessments to check on your healing. Be sure to keep those appointments.

Soon, you will be on your way to a new, healthy you. And you might never need those eye drops again.

Dry Eye After Cataract Surgery

Photo of an elderly couple, who still enjoy in each other, is on a hiking trip together

The quality of your tear film is an important consideration after you undergo cataract surgery. High-quality tears to keep your eyes moist and healthy will help the healing process.

One study reported that few patients complained about dry eye before undergoing cataract surgery, but about 80 percent of them had signs of dry eye in tests prior to the operation.

How to Reduce Dry Eye Following Cataract Surgery

Because of the risk of making this condition worse, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) considers untreated or uncontrolled dry eye a sign that the person is not suited for refractive surgery and some types of cataract surgery. AAO recommends that a thorough eye exam look for dry eye signs and treat this condition before someone undergoes cataract surgery.

Use these drops only as directed and only with a prescription.


  1. Dexamethasone (Ophthalmic Route). (April 2019). Mayo Clinic.
  2. After Surgery: Shots, Drops, or Both? (March 2018). Review of Ophthalmology.
  3. Dry-Eye Syndrome After Cataract Surgery. (December 2005). Review of Ophthalmology.
  4. Artificial Tears: How to Select Eyedrops for Dry Eyes. (February 2019). Mayo Clinic.
  5. Lubricating Eye Drops. (August 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  6. What Can I Use for My Red, Itchy Eyes After Cataract Surgery? (June 2018). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  7. Cataract Surgery. (March 2018). Mayo Clinic.
  8. Managing Dry Eye Key to Patient Satisfaction After Cataract. (July 2019). Ophthalmology Times.

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