Cataract surgery is a same-day procedure done on an outpatient basis. You will absolutely need someone to drive you home after the surgery, but how long after cataract surgery can you drive?
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Your eyes will generally start to clear within a few hours after surgery. Usually, it is safe for you to drive 24 hours later.
Sometimes, patients can experience pain, swelling, and blurry vision for a few days or weeks after surgery. In these instances, you should wait to drive until your eyes feel better and your vision clears up.
It usually takes about four to six weeks for the eyes to completely heal and vision to be restored after cataract surgery.
Driving After Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is done as an outpatient surgery, so that means you will get to go home the same day. It is a quick and relatively minimally invasive procedure.
You will need to have someone drive you home after the operation. You will also need to rest your eyes for the remainder of the day as much as possible.
Your doctor will likely give you an eye patch to wear at night to protect your eye, and eye drops to put in in your eye to help with the healing process. Your vision will improve and begin to clear up within a few hours of surgery, but this isn’t the green light you need to start driving.
How Long after Cataract Surgery Can You Drive?
After cataract surgery, you should wait a full 24 hours to drive.
After cataract surgery, you will not be able to wear contacts for a few weeks. If you need prescription eyewear to see well enough to drive safely, you will need to wear eyeglasses.
Typically, it takes about a month to a month and a half for your eyes to heal completely following cataract surgery. Each person is different, however. Your doctor will talk to you about your specific healing time, what to expect, and when it is safe for you to resume normal everyday activities such as driving.
Possible Postoperative Issues
You may experience swelling, eye irritation, redness, blurry vision, and pain after cataract surgery. All of these possible complications can make it hard to see well enough, or be comfortable enough, to drive.
Generally, you will start to feel better a few days after cataract surgery. However, it can take a few weeks for your eyes to heal well enough to read clearly and drive safely.
Improvements in Vision From Cataract Surgery
Cataracts can impair your ability to drive safely. Surgery to remove them can improve your vision, help you to see more clearly, and enhance your ability to drive safely for several years to come, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports.
Cataracts are commonly associated with age, as they form when the proteins in your eye lens break down and clump up, causing the lens to become cloudy. Cataracts often start to form around age 40 and progress very slowly over the years.
If a cataract is impairing your everyday life, making it hard for you to see well enough to read or drive, cataract surgery is the only way to address the issue.
Cataract surgery can:
- Clear up cloudy or blurry vision due to a “foggy” lens.
- Improve double vision.
- Restore night vision.
- Decrease sensitivity to light.
- Minimize glares or halos around lights.
- Improve vision in low-light or dim conditions.
- Enhance color vision.
Healing After Cataract Surgery
Directly after cataract surgery, you will need someone to drive you home and help you around the house. Your eye will need time to heal. You will likely start to see better out of the eye within a few hours, but it may still be swollen and sensitive for several days.
It is important to follow all of your doctor’s orders and instructions after cataract surgery.
- Take any and all prescribed medications and/or eyedrops exactly as directed.
- Wear your eyepatch when necessary, usually at night when you sleep.
- Wear eyeglasses instead of contacts for a month or two.
- Protect your eyes from the sun and outdoor elements by wearing sunglasses.
- Wait to exercise or do any heavy lifting until cleared by your doctor.
- Keep soap out of your eyes.
- Do not rub or press on your eyes.
Cataracts can form in both eyes, and you may need surgery on both. Usually, your doctor will do one surgery and then wait several weeks to take care of the second one.
Specifics of your healing may vary according to your individual situation. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of cataract surgery, any potential complications, and how long you should wait before resuming daily activities like driving.
- Cataracts. (August 2019). National Eye Institute (NEI).
- Cataract Surgery. (September 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
- Recovery Cataract Surgery. (December 2017). NHS.
- Driving When You Have Cataracts. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- What Are Cataracts? (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).