Learn about the types of lenses with cataract surgery

Glasses After Cataract Surgery: Who Needs Them and Why?

Lee R. Katzman, M.D.

Medically Reviewed by Lee R. Katzman, M.D.

Fact Checked
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Last Updated

Cataract surgery involves replacing a lens, most often clouded by age, with a synthetic version. Worldwide, millions of people have cataracts. Surgery solves the problem, and many people see better than ever after the procedure.

During cataract surgery, you choose the lens replacement type. Most people choose a monofocal lens (for distance) and will need reading glasses for close work.

Some newer lens options may reduce the need for glasses. They may be a good option, depending on your lifestyle.

Will I Need Glasses After Cataract Surgery?

After cataract surgery, regardless of the intraocular lens you choose, you will have the option to make prescription glasses for whichever task you still need help with. For example, even with perfect distance vision, you may want progressive glasses for reading. Or you may be able to read your tablet without glasses, but need an over-the-counter glasses for reading the fine print on prescription drug bottles.

Dr. Katzman

Researchers say 30% to 50% of people who had cataract surgery need glasses after cataract surgery. Whether you’ll be one of them is based on several factors. 

Cataracts can happen to everyone, but they’re most common among people who spend a lot of time in the sun. Eyes cloud slowly, resulting in vision that seems blurry or yellowed. Cataract surgery is the only solution, and it involves replacing the clouded lens with an intraocular lens (IOL)

If you had a pre-existing refractive error (like myopia), that can influence your need for glasses later. Other factors include the overall health of your eyes and your visual needs. Advances in laser-assisted cataract surgery and IOLs can mean customized surgeries that reduce your reliance on glasses after the procedure.

Intraocular Lens Options

The type of artificial lens implanted into your eye can impact your need to continue wearing glasses. 

Monofocal IOLs: Sharpening Your Focus for Distance

Monofocal IOLs, which are most commonly used in cataract surgery, are used to set your best uncorrected vision at a single focal point. This means people who get a monofocal IOL for distance vision will still need reading glasses for close activities, and vice versa.

Multifocal IOLs

Multifocal IOLs provide clear vision at multiple distances: far, intermediate, and near, reducing or eliminating the need for glasses or contact lenses. They are safe, effective, and offer significant advantages to patients, who have expressed high levels of satisfaction following their surgery.

Toric IOLs

Toric IOLs are specifically designed to correct the most common type of astigmatism and are an excellent option for restoring clarity of vision after cataract surgery. They can significantly reduce or eliminate the need for glasses to correct the blurred vision often experienced by patients with astigmatism.

Accommodating IOLs

Accommodative IOLs can correct various vision problems, including age-related farsightedness. These lenses mimic the eye’s natural ability to adjust focus between near and far objects, providing a wider range of vision without glasses compared to monofocal IOLs. However, it’s important to note that results may vary from person to person.

Extended Depth of Focus (EDOF) IOL

EDOF IOLs offer an excellent solution to address age-related vision problems, especially presbyopia. These lenses provide seamless continuous vision from near to far, aiming to reduce dependence on glasses for various activities.

By optimizing both distance and intermediate vision, EDOF IOLs have garnered high satisfaction among patients after their surgeries. In a recent study, the vast majority of participants expressed satisfaction and a willingness to recommend the procedure to others.

Light-Adjustable Lens (LAL) IOLs

LAL IOLs allow for postoperative adjustments to fine-tune vision without the need for additional intraocular surgery. This flexibility can be beneficial in achieving optimal visual results for both distance and near vision, especially in complex circumstances when achieving a high quality result with a monofocal lens would be less likely.

There are other intraocular lens options. Here’s a look at how they all compare:

Intraocular Lens Type Description Correction Focus
Monofocal IOLs Most commonly used in cataract surgery. Set uncorrected vision at a single focal point. Single focus – distance or near vision (not both)
Multifocal Corrects for distance, intermediate, and near vision. Multiple focuses – distance, intermediate, and near vision
Toric Specifically corrects astigmatism blurriness. Astigmatism
Accommodative Corrects various vision issues, including age-related farsightedness. Multiple focuses, depending on brand of lens used
Extended depth of focus Can treat various age-related vision issues. Mulitple focuses – distance and intermediate
Light-adjustable lens (LAL) Allows you and your doctor to refine your vision after cataract surgery for a customized amount or distance. Customizable focus – distance or near vision, blended between the two eyes

How Will I Know if I Need New Glasses After Cataract Surgery?

family with happy kids

Your doctor will examine your eyes carefully before surgery, and after that exam, you may have a good idea about whether you’ll still need glasses after cataract surgery

If you wore glasses before surgery, have underlying eye health issues (like glaucoma), or are experiencing age-related sight changes, you may need glasses after cataract surgery. That’s especially true if you don’t choose advanced lenses that can correct these problems. 

You may need glasses after surgery if you can’t see clearly when your eyes have healed. A standard visual acuity test can help you understand the prescription you need. But symptoms can include the following:

  • Blurry distant vision
  • Blurry close vision
  • Headaches due to eye strain

What Kind of Glasses Will I Need?

The type of glasses you’ll need will depend on your vision issues and the lens implanted during your cataract surgery. After a visual acuity test, you’ll know just what sort of correction is required. 

Even if you don’t need glasses to help you see clearly, you will need sunglasses after cataract surgery. Lenses can protect your eyes from UV damage.

If you don’t want to wear glasses after cataract surgery, talk with your NVISION Eye Center provider. Discuss procedures that can lower the risk of wearing glasses when the procedure is done.

Glasses After Cataract Surgery: FAQs

How soon after cataract surgery should you get new glasses?

The timing for obtaining new glasses after cataract surgery varies for each individual and depends on the healing process and stabilization of your vision. Your eye surgeon will typically advise waiting until your eyes have fully healed, which can take several weeks. It’s essential to follow your surgeon’s guidance and schedule a follow-up appointment to determine when it’s appropriate to get new glasses.

Should I wear my old glasses after cataract surgery?

It’s common for patients to experience changes in vision after cataract surgery, so wearing your old glasses may not provide the optimal vision correction. Your surgeon will likely advise against wearing your old glasses, as they are designed for your eyes’ pre-surgery condition. Instead, they may recommend temporary measures, such as using over-the-counter reading glasses, until your vision stabilizes and new glasses can be prescribed.

Can glasses improve vision with cataracts?

While glasses can sometimes help improve vision in individuals with mild cataracts or early-stage cataracts, they cannot fully correct vision once cataracts have progressed significantly. Cataracts cause clouding of the eye’s natural lens, leading to blurred vision that glasses alone may not adequately address. In such cases, cataract surgery, where the clouded lens is replaced with a clear artificial lens, is often the most effective solution for restoring clear vision.

What are the options available for individuals with astigmatism or other vision issues after cataract surgery?

After cataract surgery, individuals with astigmatism or other vision issues have several options to further enhance their quality of life. The ophthalmologist will evaluate these options to determine the most appropriate choice.
These options include:
– Toric intraocular lenses (IOLs): These specialized lenses can correct astigmatism blurriness during cataract surgery, thereby reducing the need for glasses or contact lenses afterward.
– Limbal relaxing incisions (LRI): These are small incisions at the corneal edge that surgeons make to reshape the cornea and reduce astigmatism.
– Laser Vision Correction:  It can correct residual refractive errors that may occur after cataract surgery, including astigmatism.

How long do I need to wear sunglasses outside after cataract surgery?

After cataract surgery, it’s imperative to shield your eyes from intense sunlight and UV radiation by wearing sunglasses outdoors for at least one year, irrespective of whether the intraocular lens has a special UV coating. Read more about sunglasses after cataract surgery.

How long does it take for vision to stabilize after cataract surgery?

After cataract surgery, the duration for vision to stabilize can vary among individuals. While some may notice improvement immediately or the next day, others may require several days or a few months to fully stabilize. Additionally, some patients may encounter blurred vision during the healing and adjustment period.

Is it safe to wear contact lenses after cataract surgery?

In general, it’s considered safe to wear contact lenses after cataract surgery, but it’s crucial to wait until your eyes have completely healed, and your vision has stabilized. However, before reintroducing contact lens use, it’s essential to consult with your ophthalmologist to obtain their recommendation and approval.

Learn more about cataract surgery at NVISION eye centers.

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