Cataract surgery recovery is usually painless and easy.
Several of my own family members including my father, and also friends, have gone through cataract surgery. (And you probably know many folks as well).
A couple of the people we knew did have minor complications, but otherwise had excellent results. Mostly everyone, Dad’s specialist said, has an easy recovery.
The majority of patients experience no cataract surgery complications. In fact, they are rare. When Dad had his surgery in both eyes, he was in his 80s. I asked the eye doctor a lot of questions, and also his retina specialist later.
Cataract surgery involves removing the faulty eye lens, and replacing it with an artificial lens. The implant used for cataract surgery is made of a type of plastic, not human tissue, so cannot be rejected. It will also not wear out.
Most cataract surgery recovery is so successful, that patients go home the same day, although they do need someone to drive them home. They may wear a patch for awhile, and be given eye drops to use daily for possibly a couple of weeks, to control inflammation and infection.
Dad’s doctor decided the time frame based on his specifics. Many patients resume a good deal of normal activity the next day, as Dad did. He was really surprised at how cataracts had impacted his participation in many senior activities. If you are still working, it may be recommended that you take some days off work, as with a couple of my friends and relatives. So scheduling this surgery before a weekend is ideal.
The doctor will, of course, give an instruction sheet about cataract surgery recovery to take home. It tells what to do and expect within the first 24 hours, the first week, and the first month, and then several months to a year afterwards. Most patients have return check-up visits the next day, and then again within a couple of weeks. Our family member who got an infection, went back sooner and more often.
Below is a general summary of what Dad’s specialist said we could typically expect during cataract surgery recovery.
Cataract Surgery Recovery – Basic Timeline
The first 24 hours — It is recommended that you have someone to drive you home. Eyes will be sensitive. And no matter what – don’t rub your eyes!That was hard for Dad to do! (Same with any of his macular degeneration procedures). During the first 24 hours vision will be blurred. There’s also sensitivity to light, glare, and some eye discomfort. Several people I know saw halos or “auras” around objects. This varies with the patient.
Some patients experience a feeling of eye pressure, or a temporary ache or burning sensation, as with Dad. That was about the “worst” discomfort he had. Others I know who’ve had cataract surgery, also said the discomfort is minimal, and they did not even need to take a pain reliever. But your doctor may prescribe or give you a mild pain reliever anyway.
Most discomfort should disappear in a day or two. The patient needs to take it easy and rest for the first 24 hours of the cataract surgery recovery.
There may also be a scratchy feeling. This could also be due to dry eyes (which Dad did have), so his eye doctor gave him some artificial tears. Many people are able to resume driving after the first 24 hours. Dad was in his 80s at the time and still driving, and he waited several days. When you have your follow-up visit, you can discuss this with your doctor.
You will be given instructions for eye drops, which help the healing and also the eye pressure level. Some eye drops may slightly sting or burn a little bit, which is what happened to Dad. But he said it was more annoying than “painful.”
It was OK for him to gently clean around the eye area. But your doctor will tell you not to rub, touch, or put any pressure on the eye itself. You will also be given a patch to wear over your eye, even while you sleep, to protect it. Your doctor may schedule to see you again the next day.
The first week — For the first week after, the eyes and body are adjusting. You will continue to wear the eye patch during the night for awhile. Sensitivity to glare and light gradually lessened with Dad, as is typical.
It’s normal for the eyes to be sensitive and may still feel scratchy when blinking, until the surgery heals. (This is the case with most eye procedures anyway). It’s important not to rub your eyes or get anything in them. Other general precautions given were no eye makeup during the first couple weeks (no problem for an elderly man!). Also, avoid getting water in the eye. Active people are told to not participate in water sports.
No extreme sports (so don’t plan that parachute jump quite yet), heavy activity and lifting during the first week of cataract surgery recovery. Really active people may tend to want to shrug this off. But the doctor warned that heavy activity can affect the pressure in the eye. We may feel just fine, but the doctor still advises not to participate in anything heavy.
Normal walking, light chores, and going up and down steps are fine. Within the first week of cataract surgery recovery, most people can see the improvement in their vision. They may also be ready to return to work.
A month after — At this point after treatment for cataracts, the eye should be back to normal, although color perception may take a month or two more to stabilize. Since Dad’s macular degeneration altered his color perception anyway, this was difficult to determine with him.
By this time cataract surgery recovery is well under way, and you’re back to a full routine of activities. You may have dry eyes so could still be using eye drops. Since there is an artificial lens in the eye, our system and brain will still be adjusting to vision through the new lens. Healing will usually take at least six weeks.
Many people I know had their corrective prescription included in the new lens, as seems to be the trend, so their vision turned out really well! They only needed glasses (or contacts) for reading.
About a month after cataract surgery, there is a follow-up appointment with the eye doctor as well. At this point you may be checked for new glasses or contact lens, if needed.
The doctor may also schedule cataract eye surgery, if needed, on the second eye now (although some eye doctors do schedule the second eye sooner). Most of those that I know who the surgery, did need to have it in both eyes, as did my father. In no cases that I know of, were both eyes done at the same time.
Although cataract surgery complications are rare and often in conjunction with other elderly issues, it is worth taking a look at this matter.
Cataracts definitely impact the quality of senior activities and quality of life in general. And it’s so unnecessary to tolerate this easy-to-resolve condition.
Be sure to also read our overall discussion about causes of blindness in elderly and our eye specialist’s comments.