If you or a loved one is going to undergo cataract surgery, it’s understandable if you want to know more about the recovery period.
Cataract surgery is a straightforward surgical procedure that only lasts around 10 to 15 minutes. Most patients are ready to go home within an hour or two of the operation. But there is a little more to think about.
Here’s what to expect after cataract surgery, from timescales to ensuring your recovery is problem-free.
The recovery timescales we’ll be discussing are:
- Immediately after the surgery
- 24 hours after the surgery
- The first week after the surgery
- A few weeks after the surgery
- A month after the surgery
Your eyes may look slightly red and bruised, but this is normal. It should disappear after a few days.
Immediately after the surgery, you will need to rest in the cataract surgery clinic’s recovery area until you’re less groggy from the sedation. This typically takes between 30 minutes to an hour.
Keep in mind that the local anaesthetic can take several hours to begin wearing off and before feeling starts to return to your eyes. So, it’s advised that you have someone who can drive you home.
You’ll have a protective eye shield and be given a pair of sunglasses to wear to protect your eyes from bright lights and glare.
Once you get home, rest your eyes and nap to help them heal.
Summary of the Symptoms Immediately After Surgery
- Red and bruised eyes - will disappear within a few days.
- Grogginess from sedation and anaesthetic - will wear off within a few hours.
Some people report clear vision within a few hours after cataract surgery. But each patient heals differently and it can take you around a week or two before you experience this.
After a few hours, you may be able to watch TV or look at a screen (such as a computer or tablet) for a short period of time.
Depending on your surgeon’s advice, you might be able to remove the protective eye shield several hours after the cataract procedure.
Don’t panic if your vision appears cloudy or distorted - it can take time for your body to adjust to the new implant lens that replaced your eye’s natural lens.
Some patients have even reported experiencing “wavy” vision. If you do have this, it should only last around an hour.
You might also have bloodshot eyes. This is due to the blood vessels on the surface of the “whites” of your eyes being temporarily damaged.
As your eyes heal, this redness will also die down - usually within several days.
Summary of the Symptoms 24 Hours After Surgery
- Red, bloodshot and bruised eyes - will disappear within a few days.
- Cloudy or distorted vision - will be corrected within a few days.
- Will be able to look at screens (TV, computer, phone, tablet etc) within a few hours, though vision may still be blurry.
Your eyes may feel itchy, gritty or dry. You may also have a mild headache and lights may seem very bright.
This is normal and not a cause of concern. Keep using your lubricating eye drops and wear your eye shield at night.
If you had red, bloodshot or bruised eyes, this should be improving. Your vision should be much better than it was immediately after the surgery.
However, your near vision might not be as clear as your distance vision.
One to two days after the surgery, you should be able to perform basic daily activities such as getting out of bed, getting dressed and even gentle exercises. You can read and watch TV, and most people can return to work.
Three to seven days after the surgery, you’ll be able to resume all of your normal activities and gentle exercises except for swimming.
You should be able to return to work and as soon as you meet the DVLA standard, you can resume driving.
Summary of the Symptoms During the First Week After Surgery
- Itchy, gritty or dry eyes - should disappear or subside after a week.
- Mild headache and sensitivity to light - should subside after a week.
- Red, bloodshot or bruised eyes - should subside after a week.
- Slightly blurred vision or vision not as clear as it could be - should improve after a week.
After 10 to 14 days, your eyes should have largely healed and you should be able to resume your normal daily routine, although swimming isn’t recommended yet. Your vision will be checked and you’ll be given a final prescription.
At this point, you may be measured for new glasses, depending on how much you’ve healed and whether your vision has stabilised.
You might be wondering, “Wait what? Glasses?”
Regardless of the type of cataract surgery, if you had standard monofocal implants, most people will still require a type of glasses, such as those for reading or computer screens.
The exception is if you elected to have premium multifocal implants that restore both far and close vision, as well as at computer range.
These lenses (IOLs) are not available in the NHS due to their cost, but are commonly used in private surgery.
Some people might have even healed after two weeks. But don’t worry if your eyes haven’t yet.
Remember that everyone is different and it can take between two to six weeks to make a full recovery from cataract surgery.
Summary of the Symptoms a Few Weeks After Surgery
- Symptoms mentioned earlier (e.g. red, bloodshot eyes, itchiness, blurry vision) will be largely subsided.
- Vision may have stabilised and you’ll be given a final prescription. If not, wait up to a month.
- You’ll be able to resume normal activities, except swimming.
At the four week mark, you should have completed your course of eye drops. Your eyes will start to look normal again with signs of redness and bruising disappearing.
Your vision will also be far better than it was before and immediately after your operation. If you weren’t ready to have your eyes measured earlier, you should be now.
If you weren’t able to drive earlier, you should be able to do so - as long as you have no other reason for not meeting the DVLA standard.
You should also be allowed to swim safely again, but double check with your surgeon.
Six weeks after the surgery, you should be safe to return to all sports activities. But make sure you consult with your surgeon before you resume any contacts sports, like martial arts or rugby.
Summary of the Symptoms a Month After Surgery
- Symptoms mentioned earlier (e.g. red, bloodshot eyes, itchiness, blurry vision) will have disappeared.
- Vision should have stabilised and you’ll be given a final prescription.
- You’ll be able to resume normal activities, including swimming and contact sports.
- You’ll be able to drive.
Finding the Right Cataract Surgeon and Clinic is Key to Ensuring a Smooth Recovery
When it comes to eye surgeries, it’s natural to be cautious and wonder whether procedures like cataract surgery are safe.
You can be reassured that modern cataract surgery with an expert surgeon is a safe and effective operation that can correct vision. Serious complications are rare and the success rates are very high.
If you want to ensure that your operation and path to recovery is short and smooth, it’s important you find the right cataract surgeon and clinic.
There are several things you should look out for, including:
- A qualified and highly experienced surgeon - at Focus Clinic, our two surgeons have over 45 years worth of experience between them.
- High success rates - Focus Clinic is the only clinic in the UK with a 100 percent success rate (laser eye surgery for short-sight).
- Clinic and surgeons have excellent reviews - Focus Clinic has an unbeatable 9.9 out of 10 rating on Trustpilot. That’s why we’re rated #1 and are known to be the most trusted laser eye surgery clinic in the UK.
- Laser eye surgery enhancement - If you need to have your cataract surgery result refined with a small laser eye surgery enhancement, e.g. if you still had a small prescription afterwards, it’s will be completely free of charge. Most clinics will charge you additional fees if you require this service.
- A range of aftercare services - unlike most clinics who only offer a year’s guarantee, Focus Clinic has a unique 10-year guarantee. So, if you ever need any follow-up treatments, it’s completely on us.
Learn More About Cataract Surgery
Alternatively, you can download our comprehensive guide to cataract surgery below. It’s packed full of everything you’ll ever need to know about the operation.