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  • Writer's pictureAtanas Bogoev M.D. and Maria Cholakova

Recovering from Cataract Surgery & Potential Complications

If you're scheduled for cataract surgery or have recently undergone the procedure, it's time to go through the healing process. In this article, we offer insights from an eye doctor on recovering from cataract surgery. We talk about recovery time, dos and don'ts, side effect risks, and what to expect during your post-operative period.


Cataract surgery is a routine procedure to remove a cloudy eye lens and replace it with a clear artificial lens implant (intraocular lens). Check out our Patient's Guide to Cataract Removal Surgery to learn more.


Since you are already here, we assume you know about the procedure, the timeline, and what to expect. Maybe you are prepping yourself for recovering from cataract surgery or you recently went through it.


Whatever the case, Ophthalmology24 is here to make everything a bit less confusing for you.


Immediately After Cataract Surgery


Immediately after the surgery, you will spend a short time in the recovery area. The nursing staff will monitor your condition for a while. You are free to go home the same day, without hospitalization.


Make sure to have someone to drive you home, because you won't be able to drive.


Medical staff may give you an eye shield or protective eyewear to wear at night. That's to prevent accidentally touching or rubbing your eye in your sleep.


Your surgeon will prescribe ophthalmic eye drops to prevent infection and reduce inflammation. Follow the schedule for these drops as directed by your eye doctor.


Then comes the cataract surgery recovery process.



Recovering from Cataract Surgery Timeline


The complete cataract surgery recovery time varies for each individual patient.


In the days immediately following surgery, you may experience:


  • Mild discomfort

  • Itching

  • Grittiness in your eye


There is no need to worry, as these unpleasant symptoms are normal and should improve within a few days.


Vision


Your vision may improve rapidly after surgery. But it can take several weeks for your eye to fully heal and your vision to stabilize. It's common to experience fluctuations in vision during this time.


Driving


Follow your surgeon's guidance about when it's safe to resume driving. Generally, most people can drive within a week or two after surgery.


Regular Activities


You should be able to return to most of your regular activities, such as reading, watching TV, and light household chores, within a day or two.


To be safe, avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting for at least two weeks.


How fast the recovery after cataract surgery will be depends on many factors. Those are individual healing response, age, and occurrence of any complications. The complexity of the cataract and the surgical technique also affect the cataract surgery recovery time.


elder man recovery from cataract surgery

After-Surgery Complications & When to Seek Help


The procedure is generally safe and highly successful. Yet, there are potential complications that can arise when recovering from cataract surgery. Here is what to watch out for and when it's time to seek medical help.


Common Complications


If you notice increasing redness, eye pain, secretions or eye discharge, contact your surgeon immediately. These could be signs of an infection. Excessive swelling for a long period is also a red flag to look out for.


You should also report sudden and significant changes in vision. Symptoms include worsening blurriness or lower vision.


Some patients may experience eye floaters or flashes of light in their vision. Floaters and flashes can be a normal part of the cataract recovery. Even so, if these symptoms persist or worsen, consult your eye doctor immediately.



Rare Complications


Sometimes, a few months after the surgery cloudy membrane may develop behind the new intraocular lens implant. This condition is posterior capsule opacification (secondary cataract). It is treatable with a simple, non-invasive laser procedure.


In rare situations, cataract surgery may result in glaucoma development or retinal detachment.


Simptoms of increased intraocular pressure include blurry vision, eye pain, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of those symptoms, you need to see and ophthalmologist immediately. On the contrary, mild increased intraocular pressure over a long time may remain asymptomatic and can only be detected on postoperative follow-up exams.


Retinal detachment presents as multiple, persistent flashes of lights, new onset of floaters or a shadowy curtain in the field of vision.


A rare complication from the intraocular lens presents with seeing dark shadows in peripheral vision or seeing bright spots like glare or halos. This is due to light interactions with the new intraocular lens implant.


Lens dislocation may occur, and depending on the severity it needs to be managed surgically.


Long-Term Benefits of Cataract Surgery


Cataract surgery offers long-term benefits to enhance your quality of life.


The procedure restores clear vision, making it easier to read, drive, and enjoy daily activities. Many patients notice a significant reduction in glare and halos around lights, especially when driving at night.


Having a better vision can also lead to greater independence and a more active lifestyle. All aspects which make patients feel happy, comfortable, and fulfilled in their lives. This is especially true for elder patients.


Summary


Recovering from cataract surgery is a gradual process. With proper care and follow-up, most patients experience improvements in their vision and quality of life.


You should be fine as long as you follow your surgeon's instructions and attend all follow-up appointments. Don't hesitate to seek help if you experience any concerning symptoms. Cataract surgery can be a life-changing experience to see the world with newfound clarity.


Resources:



Checked by Atanas Bogoev, MD.

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