Cataract Surgery Recovery—Cataract Removal and Treatment

Read Facts and Advice About Surgery for Cataracts and the Recovery Process

Eye surgery

If you have been diagnosed with a cataract or a clouding of your eye lens, you probably know that this is often a normal part of the aging process. Cataracts can also be caused by certain diseases or medication, or can be hereditary. No matter what the cause, if your cataracts have reached the stage where they are significantly affecting your vision, your doctor may suggest corrective eye surgery. If you are considering this procedure to treat your symptoms, here are some things you should know about what is involved and what to expect during the recovery period.

  1. Cataract treatment often results in surgery which involves removing the natural eye lens that is affected and replacing it with a permanent lens implant. Expect that the implant will be custom-made to fit your prescription and eye dimensions.
  2. Cataract surgery is usually done as an outpatient procedure.
  3. Different clinics perform different methods, so take the time to learn about what your doctor is planning ahead of time. For instance, a common form of surgery today is phacoemulsification, which uses ultrasound technology to break up the cloudy lens so it can be removed. Another new technology used is called AquaLase, which relies on small pulses of water to remove the cataract. Find out what types of procedures are available and appropriate for you.
  4. If you go with more traditional methods of surgery, understand that some surgeons begin the surgery on the white of the eye just beyond the cornea, while others start their incisions about 1 mm forward, which is actually in the cornea. The first approach usually seals on its own, while the latter method often requires sutures.  The type of method used will affect the recovery process, so what to expect can vary.
  5. Depending on the method used, your doctor may use special eye drops as the only anesthesia, or you may need an injectable form of anesthesia.
  6. To ensure proper eye care, only one eye will be operated on at a time so you may need to undergo surgery twice.
  7. You should have someone waiting who can take you home when the surgery is done, as you will not be able to drive right away. When you do resume driving, your visual perception and judgment may be altered and it can take you a while to get used to the change.
  8. Some patients who have undergone cataract surgery are asked to wear an eye patch for the first 24 hours. Whether you have a patch or not, it is important to avoid rubbing your eye or putting any pressure on it.  You may also be asked to wear an eye shield for a week or two after surgery to protect your eye from irritants.
  9. How your vision responds right after the surgery can vary from person to person. Some patients see clearly almost immediately following surgery, while others may experience blurred vision for a week or so. Double vision can even occur right after the procedure, but if so, this usually doesn't last more than a day or two.
  10. After explaining to you how to recover from eye surgery, your doctor will provide you with any prescriptions or give advice for over-the-counter drugs. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops afterwards to prevent infection. Anti-inflammatory drops may also be used in some cases.
  11. Some people find that taking an over-the-counter pain medicine can help make them more comfortable following surgery. If you do experience any pain, it may help to know that it usually resolves within a few days.
  12. It is not uncommon for people to have some eye symptoms following the surgery. You may experience some discharge from your eye and find it irritated or itching, and you may be more sensitive to light afterward. Sunglasses can help filter out the light when outdoors.
  13. The recovery process normally goes quickly and most people are able to resume their normal routine approximately 24 hours after the surgery, but check with your doctor to get clearance before you become very active.
  14. More strenuous activities, such as aerobics and contact sports, should be avoided for about two weeks, since anything that puts pressure on your eye can affect the healing process. You should also avoid bending and lifting heavy objects for the first two weeks or so.
  15. Avoid taking a very hot shower for the first week after the surgery, and when you do shower or wash your face, try to minimize the amount of water that gets in your eye.
  16. While you will feel better quickly, the full recovery time can be anywhere from two weeks to one month.
  17. Generally, patients are seen three or four times following the surgery to check eye health and to make sure the eye is healing properly. Check with your doctor, though, as this can vary depending on your situation.
  18. Once you have completely recovered, the doctor will check your vision and if needed, will prescribe eyeglasses. However, many people who have this surgery do not need corrective eyewear afterward.
  19. If you notice your vision remains cloudy even after the surgery, or if the cloudy vision reoccurs at a later date, you may need to have a second surgery done to correct the problem. This is a painless, simple procedure usually done by a laser, and doesn't require any anesthesia.


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