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After cataract surgery

With phacoemulsification and foldable lens implants, surgical incisions are very small, and no sutures are required. If all goes well, you'll heal fast and your vision will start to improve within a few days. If your surgery requires a larger incision and sutures, full healing can take up to eight weeks.
Normally you can go home on the same day of your surgery, but you won't be able to drive, so make sure to arrange for a ride home. It's also a good idea to make sure you have necessary help because your doctor may limit activities such as bending and lifting for a few days. You'll typically see your eye doctor the next day, the following week and then again after a month so that he or she can check the healing progress.

It's normal to feel itching and mild discomfort for a couple of days after surgery. Avoid rubbing or pressing on your eye. Clean your eyelids with tissue or cotton balls to remove any crusty discharge. You may wear an eye patch or protective shield the day of surgery. Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent infection and control eye pressure. After a couple of days, all discomfort should disappear. Often, complete healing occurs within eight weeks.

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms after cataract surgery:

  • Vision loss
  • Pain that persists despite the use of over-the-counter pain medications
  • Increased eye redness
  • Light flashes or multiple spots (floaters) in front of your eye
  • Nausea, vomiting or excessive coughing

If you have cataracts in both eyes, your doctor will treat one eye at a time, and it's usually a month or two before you can schedule surgery for the other eye.

Following the day of surgery:

The doctor will examine your eye. Your vision will be tested, and eye drops will be instilled. It is normal for vision to be slightly blurred in the operated eye.  It is not uncommon to experience some double vision. This should gradually improve over the next few days.
Glasses should be worn at all times to help keep your operated eye protected during the healing process. Please remember that the eyeglass prescription will no longer be correct in the lens corresponding with your operated eye. In about 3-6 weeks, you will be given a new prescription for glasses.
It is not uncommon for many patients to experience a slight increase in light-sensitivity (photophobia) following cataract surgery. This may cause increased tearing and eye irritation. Lightly dab tears away from eyelids without touching the eye directly. Avoid rubbing, poking, or applying pressure to the eye.
Do not lift over 30 lbs. for two weeks. Avoid lowering your head below the level of your heart (ie. bend at your knees, and not at your waist).
Avoid getting soap or water in your eyes. You may shower, but do not get the operated eye wet. During the first two weeks, hair can be washed with the head tilted backwards (ie. hairdresser-style). No swimming for two weeks.
Apply a protective shield over the operative eye at bedtime (your doctor will instruct you how to apply).
You may have some discomfort or mild pain after eye surgery which should be relieved by acetaminophen (Tylenol).
If you experience severe pain, any decrease in vision, or discharge from the eye, call your eye care provider immediately.

Please note: The above guide is to be used for reference only. Please follow the specific medical advice of your doctor.

Recovering from cataract surgery

Take it easy for the first two or three days after the operation. If you have questions about what you can and can't do, ask your surgeon or nurse for guidance.
You can resume normal activities such as moving around and bending down, but be careful because it's hard to judge distances with one eye covered.
There are some important things to remember while recovering from cataract surgery.
  • Try not to touch or rub your eye.
  • Keep soap and shampoo out of your eyes (it's sensible to avoid washing your hair for the first few days).
  • In the first few weeks after the operation, avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise as this can increase the pressure in your eye and could put a strain on your healing scar.
  • If you suffer more than mild pain, or you experience loss of vision or increasing redness of your eye, you should contact your hospital for advice.

After the operation

After the operation, your eye is likely to be covered with a protective pad. You will need to wear this for a few hours.
Your operation will usually be a day-case and you will be able to go home once you have made a full recovery from the anaesthetic. It is a good idea to have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours (especially if it's your only good eye that has been treated).
Sensation usually returns to the eye within a few hours. Improved vision is usually noticed within a few days, although complete healing may take several months.
Before discharge, you will be given eye drops to help prevent infection and promote healing. Your surgeon will also give you advice about how long to use eye drops and, if applicable, when you can resume driving.
You will be given a 24-hour contact telephone number for the hospital and a follow-up appointment will be made. Most surgeons see their patients again within one to three weeks of the operation.
It may be helpful to wear sunglasses or a hat when you leave the hospital as your eye may be sensitive to the sun.


Risks of cataract surgery

Complications after cataract surgery are relatively rare, and most can be treated successfully. They include inflammation, infection, bleeding, swelling, retinal detachment and glaucoma. The risks are greater for people who have other eye diseases or serious medical problems. Occasionally cataract surgery fails to improve vision because of underlying eye damage from conditions such as glaucoma or macular degeneration. It's important to evaluate and treat such eye problems, if possible, before making the decision to proceed with cataract surgery.


Complications are unexpected problems that can occur during or after the procedure. Most people are not affected. The main complications of any operation are bleeding during or soon after the procedure, infection and an abnormal reaction to the anaesthetic. In a small number of cases, complications can lead to reduced vision or blindness.
Specific complications of cataract surgery are rare but can include the following.
  • After phacoemulsification, the lens casing that is left in the eye to support the implant may thicken and become cloudy. This is called posterior capsular opacification and begins gradually, usually months or years after the operation. It results in reduced vision similar to a cataract. A relatively simple laser treatment can be used to correct it.
  • The lens capsule may tear, which can result in reduced vision.
  • A bit of the lens with the cataract may be displaced into the back of the eye, requiring another operation to remove it.
  • You may have bleeding inside your eye.
  • The implant may dislocate, requiring a further operation.

Your retina may be damaged during the operation, which could make you blind in that eye, but this is rare.

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