Cataract surgery is the most common medically accepted treatment for cataracts—to restore clear vision and improve quality of life. According to the National Eye Institute, at least half of the people in the US have had their cataracts removed surgically by the time they’re 80 years of age.
In this blog, we’ll tell you what to expect after cataract surgery and give a rundown of the cataract surgery recovery timeline, what to expect, and what to watch out for.
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Background and Overview
Inside the eye, the lens contains a clear lens that focuses onto the retina, the layer of nerve that lines the back of the eye on the inside. Normally, the lens is clear and transparent. But if you have a cataract, the lens becomes cloudy, just like looking through a foggy window or windshield.
Most cataracts develop slowly over time due to aging, affecting most people who are over 50. In some cases, however, cataracts can develop in infants and young children due to trauma or medications.
This eye condition is common and reversible. At least 2.2 billion people experience near or distance vision impairment. Of these, 1 billion cases could have been prevented by early intervention, including 94 million cataract cases.
People who smoke cigarettes, consume too much alcohol, live in an area with ultraviolet exposure, and have a family history of cataracts are more likely to develop the eye condition. Further, some conditions or predisposing factors may hasten the development of cataracts. These include diabetes, steroid use, eye injury or surgery, radiation therapy to the upper body, use of phenothiazine drugs, and spending too much time in the sun without eye protection, such as sunglasses.
Early detection and intervention are crucial to prevent permanent vision loss. Cataract surgery is a day surgical procedure performed by an ophthalmologist.
Cataract surgery, also known as lens replacement surgery, is performed to remove the natural lens with a cataract and replace it with an intraocular lens. It is a safe day surgery that may last between 20 to 30 minutes.
However, the recovery and care after the surgery is of utmost importance.. The cataract surgery recovery timeline should be short and uneventful, as long as you follow all instructions provided by the doctor.
What to Expect After Cataract Surgery
While thoroughness is required during recovery, the time needed to recover is insignificant compared to the lifetime of clear vision. It is essential to give yourself ample time to recover while adhering to post-operative recommendations by the doctor.
To recover from cataract surgery as quickly as possible, it’s imperative to follow the advice of your doctor.
INITIALLY AFTER SURGERY
After the surgical procedure, don’t be alarmed if your vision seems blurry or distorted. It will take some time for the visual system to adjust to the surgical removal of the cataract. The eyes are also adapting to the new lens that replaced the eye’s natural lens. Immediately after the procedure, you’re not allowed to drive, operate heavy machinery or equipment, or perform strenuous activities. Avoid bending over to prevent putting too much pressure on the eyes. Sneezing and vomiting may cause pressure buildup in the eye, so as much as possible, prevent these activities.
24 HOURS AFTER SURGERY
Most people who’ve had cataract surgery develop clearer vision within the first 24 hours. Make sure to take time off from work for about three days to a week. This way, you’ll have adequate time to rest before resuming normal activities.
However, simple tasks such as writing, reading, watching TV, and walking can be done as soon as you feel comfortable after the surgery.
While recovering in the days following the procedure, the cornea may become mildly swollen. You may experience wavy, hazy, and distorted vision. The doctor may provide medicated eyedrops to help reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
During the first days after the surgery, it is advised to prevent doing heavy lifting or strenuous activities. Avoid swimming or using a hot tub during the first week post-cataract surgery to reduce infection. Prevent rubbing your eye and don’t expose it to irritants, including pollen, wind, dirt, and dust.
In the first week, prevent irritation due to eye makeup, face cream, or lotion. When going out during the day, wear your sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Also, you will be provided with a protective eye shield during sleep, naps included. The shield will help prevent you from rubbing your eye during sleep, which can cause eye injury. During sleep, it is advised to sleep on the non-operative side to prevent applying extra pressure as the eye heals.
1 month POST-SURGERY
In about 1 month after cataract surgery, most people are completely healed, as long as they follow the doctor’s recommendations. Follow-up checkups are advised for the doctor to check progress in recovery. Also, this allows the doctor to watch out for common complications that may arise.
Potential Complications After Cataract Surgery
Every surgery comes with risks. Adverse effects warrant emergency attention. You should always watch out for signs of complications.
After surgery, call the doctor immediately if you experience vision loss, very red eyes, extreme pain that does not go away, and light flashes or dark spots called floaters. These can be signs of serious complications that need to be addressed right away.
The risks of cataract surgery include unusual changes in eye pressure, double or vision loss, retinal detachment, swelling, bleeding, infection.
Caught early, these complications can be addressed and treated. Patients must remember these signs and seek medical attention when they arise.
While most patients observe dramatic improvements in their vision a few days after the cataract surgery, it is vital to comply with the doctor’s treatment regimen and advice to help the recovery process go smoothly. Following the doctor’s post-operative instructions will help you recover faster and prevent complications.
It is wise not to compare your recovery with other patients. The recovery time and process may differ from one patient to another. Hence, a person’s recovery time after cataract surgery may be slightly different.
If you’re experiencing vision problems such as cataracts, consult with your ophthalmologist right away. Book a consultation with our team today and learn more about cataract and cataract surgery.