Cataract surgeries are typically quick and uneventful. An estimated 3.5 million cataract surgeries are performed each year in the United States. It is one of the most common surgical procedures. Numbers also show that the chance of a good outcome and improved vision after surgery are excellent.
What to Expect During Recovery
A typical cataract removal often happens in under 15 minutes. These surgeries are generally performed in an outpatient setting, such as St. Lucy’s Outpatient Eye Surgery Center. However, patients will need to spend a short time in the recovery area until the effects of sedation or anesthesia wear off.
If a patient needs cataract surgery in both eyes, the surgeon will typically wait at least a few days to a couple of weeks for the first eye to recover before operating on the second eye.
After cataract surgery, patients will need someone to drive them home. They will be given a pair of sunglasses to wear on the ride to protect their eyes from the light.
Although patients should rest following surgery, typically within the first few hours, patients should be able to:
- Perform computer work
- Watch television
- Showering and bathing (following doctors instructions)
Upon arriving home, patients might be tired and want to lie down to rest. Depending on the doctor’s advice, patients may be able to remove the protective shield that is placed over the eye within hours of the procedure.
Patients will need to tape the shield back over the eye at night or during naps, for protection during recovery- at least for several days.
Immediately after removing the eye shield, patients may experience cloudy or blurred vision. It can take time for vision to adjust to the cataract removal and adapt to the intraocular lens that replaced the eye’s natural lens.
For the first week or so, patients may experience red and bloodshot eyes because of temporary blood vessel damage on the eye’s sclera (white of the eye). As the eye heals, this should go away.
If anesthesia injections were received through the skin into the lower eye, patients might notice some bruising. This may appear similar to a black eye. This should fade within the first few days.
Often, people report clearer vision within hours. Within days, most people resume their normal day-to-day activities. However, each patient heals differently. For example, patients with pre-existing medical conditions, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and corneal problems, may find it takes a little longer to see clearly.
Antibiotic eye drops are typically prescribed for patients to prevent infection. Additionally, anti-inflammatory eye drops may also be prescribed to reduce internal inflammation. It is essential that patients apply these eye drops according to the eye doctor’s instruction.
Typically, patients are seen the day after the procedure to confirm that there are no complications. If patients do not notice an improvement in blurry vision or have eye pain or discomfort in the days after this visit, they should report this to their surgeon.
Acetaminophen might be prescribed during a patient’s recovery. Although, patients typically only have mild discomfort after cataract surgery.
Patients are regularly surprised at how good they feel and how quickly they can resume normal activities – some even the day after cataract surgery.
Although a patient might feel well enough for activity, it is important to be cautious during recovery. This will help to avoid developing an infection or injury while the eye heals.
Full cataract surgery recovery should be complete within a month when eyes are completely healed.
The best cataract surgery recoveries are achieved by following your surgeon’s detailed instructions post surgery.