Cataract Surgery: Recovery

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After recovery from cataract surgery, the vast majority of patients experience better vision. This improvement, however, may take some time, as the eye needs about eight weeks to fully heal after the procedure. To optimize your cataract surgery recovery process and help prevent complications, like eye infection or inflammation, it's essential to carefully follow post-operative instructions—including attending all of your follow-up appointments.

Man using eye drops
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Surgery Follow-Up

You will likely see your eye surgeon the day after surgery so you can be evaluated for complications. Your healthcare provider will also check your vision and eye pressure, and may make adjustments to the prescription eye drops you were given upon being discharged.

Additional follow-up appointments usually occur at these intervals:

  • One week after surgery
  • One month after surgery
  • Two to three months after surgery
  • Six months after surgery

At the one-week follow-up appointment, your healthcare provider may measure you for an updated eyeglass prescription. This is because many patients still require eyeglasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery.

The rest of the follow-up appointments are generally geared toward ensuring the eye is continuing to heal well.

While most cataract surgeries do not require sutures, on occasion, one or two sutures may be placed to reinforce the incisions made during surgery. To prevent infection, these sutures are usually removed at the one-month follow-up appointment.

Sutures placed as a result of a patient undergoing extracapsular cataract extraction (which is not a common surgical technique) may be removed during the three-month appointment.

If your post-operative appointments go smoothly, your surgeon may begin to prepare you for cataract surgery on your other eye (if needed).

Recovery Timeline

After having someone drive you home from surgery, your surgeon will want you to rest your eyes for a few hours. After this time, you can (in moderation) usually watch television and use your computer or smartphone.

Besides resting, it's important to monitor your symptoms after surgery.

Symptoms that you may experience up to a week after cataract surgery include:

  • Eye discomfort
  • Itching, stinging, or burning eyes
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Minimal to mild sensitivity to light
  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Some bruising around the eye
  • Blurry vision

The anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops your surgeon prescribes you after your surgery are meant to minimize these symptoms and decrease the risk of eye inflammation and infection.

During your recovery from cataract surgery, be sure to contact your healthcare provider right away if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Increased eye redness
  • Seeing flashes of light or lots of floaters (new spots) in front of the eye
  • Vision loss

Activity Restrictions

For the first day after surgery (depending on your practitioner's specific instructions), you will need to avoid driving. Your surgeon may also advise you to avoid bending over, as this can put undue pressure on your eye.

For the first week after surgery, your healthcare provider will also ask you to avoid the following activities:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Swimming or using a hot tub
  • Going into a sauna

Eye Care

Your surgeon will also give you specific eye-care instructions to follow in addition to using prescribed eye drops.

These instructions usually include:

  • Avoid rubbing or pressing on your eyes for the first two weeks.
  • Avoid getting soap or water directly in your eye for the first two days after surgery.
  • Wear an eye shield during the day to protect your eye, usually for the first day or two after surgery.
  • Sleep with a protective eye patch at night for at least a week.

Coping With Recovery

Most people are very happy after cataract surgery. In fact, in 95% of patients, their vision returns to 20/40 or better (assuming there are no co-existing eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, or glaucoma).

Besides better vision after cataract surgery, patients often notice:

  • Brighter colors: This is because the artificial lens is clear, while your natural lens had a yellow or brown tint from the cataract.
  • Improved night vision: After surgery, light can now more easily travel through your clear, artificial lens.
  • Better depth perception: With a clear lens, patients can judge distance more accurately.

A Word From Verywell

To ensure a good outcome and seamless recovery, be conscientious about following your post-operative care instructions and attending all of your follow-up appointments. Be cognizant, too, of potential surgical complications. Do not hesitate to reach out to your surgeon with any concerns, even if they seem minor. Prompt treatment of most complications is crucial to preserving excellent vision.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Stanford MR, Fenech T, Hunter PA. Timing of Removal of Sutures in Control of Post-Operative Astigmatism. Eye (Lond). 1993;7 ( Pt 1):143-7. doi:10.1038/eye.1993.30

  5. Porela-tiihonen S, Kaarniranta K, Kokki M, Purhonen S, Kokki H. A prospective study on postoperative pain after cataract surgery. Clin Ophthalmol. 2013;7:1429-35. doi:10.2147/OPTH.S47576

  6. National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health. Cataract Surgery.

  7. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Cataract Surgery.

  8. Allen D, Vasavada A. Cataract and surgery for cataract. BMJ. 2006 Jul 15; 333(7559): 128–132. doi:10.1136/bmj.333.7559.128

  9. Liu J, Xu J, He M. Comparing the Effects of Cataract Surgery on Vision Function in the First Eye With That in the Second Eye Measured by the Questionnaire of Vision Function. Yan Ke Xue Bao 2006 Sep;22(3):138-41.

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FN
Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FNP-C, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. She has experience in primary care and hospital medicine.