By Dr. Mark Siegel
You might be surprised at how good you feel and how easily you will be able to resume normal activities even the day after cataract surgery.
However, you should observe a few precautions during the first week or so, to make sure you avoid developing an infection or sustaining an injury to your eye while it heals.
Your eye doctor typically will prescribe antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection and anti-inflammatory eye drops to help reduce any internal inflammation. You’ll need to apply the eye drops several times daily for the first week during your cataract surgery recovery followed by less frequent administration for about one month.
Depending on the amount of postoperative inflammation you have, you may need the drops longer than a month, especially if you have diabetic eye disease or inflammatory disease of the eye. Make sure you use these eye drops exactly as prescribed.
Oral pain relievers such as acetaminophen may be prescribed, if needed. Typically, however, you should feel only slight discomfort after cataract surgery.
To help make sure your cataract surgery recovery is uneventful, also observe these tips:
1. Don’t drive on the first day.
2. Be careful walking around after surgery, and don’t bump into doors or other objects.
3. To reduce risk of infection, avoid swimming or using a hot tub during the first two weeks. Women should not wear eyeliner or mascara for one week.
4. Don’t expose your eye to irritants such as grime, dust and wind during the first few weeks after surgery.
5. Don’t rub your eye, which is a good idea even when you aren’t recovering from surgery.
Generally speaking, you should be able to perform these activities within a few hours of your surgery:
• Computer work
• Light TV watching
• Showering or bathing
For the best recovery possible, follow your doctor’s detailed instructions about how to protect your eye following the procedure. Usually these instructions, many of which are covered here, will be given to you as a handout that you can take home with you.
If you need cataract surgery in both eyes, your surgeon usually will wait at least two weeks for your first eye to recover before performing a procedure on the second eye.
Cataract Surgery Recovery and Typical Outcomes
To better understand how well your recovery will progress, you first should know that cataract surgery is one of the safest and most commonly performed surgical procedures in the United States. Also, technologies and intraocular lenses used for cataract surgery have improved significantly in the last decade or so.
Past studies show that:
• Almost 96 percent of eyes that had no other problems such as other eye diseases prior to a cataract procedure achieved at least 20/40 uncorrected distance visual acuity, which legally is good enough to drive without eyeglasses or contact lenses.
• In all eyes, including those with pre-existing eye conditions other than cataracts, almost 90 percent of all patients had good outcomes.
• Fewer than 2 percent of eyes had sight-threatening cataract surgery complications.