Most adults over the age of 50 face the possibility of having cataracts that require surgery to remove the clouded lens of the eye and replace it with intraocular lens technology. If you and your doctor decide now is the right time for you to deal with your cataracts, you will want to know what to expect during your cataract surgery recovery period. To help prepare you for the conversation with your surgeon, below is a list of common questions and basic answers about the cataract surgery recovery process.
What Should I Be Doing During Cataract Surgery Recovery?
There is very little change to your regular routine after cataract surgery, and most patients are back to work the next day. It is important to avoid rubbing the eye for the first week or two, and most surgeons advise patients to wear a protective shield or goggles while sleeping. Your surgeon may prescribe eye drops to be used several times a day for the first few weeks. The drops will help keep your eye comfortable, prevent infection and inflammation and aid in healing.
You may be more comfortable wearing dark glasses while outside for the first few weeks after surgery. Polarized glasses with UV protection are best.
What Shouldn’t I be Doing During Cataract Surgery Recovery?
Most surgeons recommend avoiding driving until you have been seen the day following surgery to determine whether vision is clear enough to drive safely. Also, do not rub, touch or press on your eye.
Regular exercise is allowed by most surgeons, but you should avoid activities that would directly impact the eye such as contact sports. These activities can put undue stress on your eye while it is healing.
While you can shower, you will need to be careful not to get any water or soap in the eye. You shouldn’t go swimming in a pool, ocean or lake for a couple of weeks to make sure you don’t expose your eye to dirty, contaminated water or over-chlorinated water.
You will want to avoid environments and activities that are dusty. Most surgeons recommend avoiding eye makeup for the first week. You want to prevent any particles, grime or other contaminants from getting into your eye and causing irritation or an infection.
What Will My Eyes Feel Like After Cataract Surgery?
For the first few days, it is normal for your eye to be sensitive and a bit uncomfortable during cataract surgery recovery. The good news is, in addition to your medicated eye drops, you should be able to manage any symptoms with an over-the-counter pain reliever (Tylenol, Advil). Your eye may feel itchy or sore for a few days and there might be some fluid discharge. It isn’t unusual for your eye to be red and your vision to be blurry in the first few days after surgery.
It is important to know that none of these symptoms should stop you from your normal routine or be very painful. They are part of the normal healing that occurs during cataract surgery recovery. However, if you do have a lot of pain or your symptoms continue for more than a couple of weeks, contact your doctor immediately.
When Can I Return to Normal Activity?
Your doctor will test your vision and confirm you are safe to drive after your cataract surgery – usually within a couple of days after the procedure. Typically, the eye will be fully healed within 8 weeks after surgery. Most people can go back to their normal routine within a few days.
Depending upon your specific needs and surgery, your cataract surgeon may give you other or additional instructions and recommendations for your cataract surgery recovery. Be sure to take the time during your pre-operative visit to go over each of these questions – and any others you may have about your procedure and recovery – with your doctor so you know exactly what to expect.