Although cataract surgery itself is a quick procedure, the cataract surgery recovery period takes much longer. For information on how long it takes to recover from cataract surgery, as well as tips on how to smooth it out as much as possible, keep reading.
How Long to Recover from Cataract Surgery?
Most people will have completed their cataract surgery recovery after 4 to 6 weeks. However, every individual is different – some may heal slightly faster, while others may take a little longer until they feel back to normal. By the 6-week mark post cataract surgery, you can expect that your sight has stabilised and any temporary side effects after your operation have resolved. But a 6-week cataract surgery recovery period doesn’t mean you’re sitting in bed doing nothing. Most people are able to return to their usual activities much sooner.
Immediately after cataract surgery, your eye can be expected to feel:
- Sore and/or gritty
- Slightly puffy and swollen
- Glare sensitive
However, as soon as several hours after having your operation, you may find your vision already begins to clear. Even if it’s not as clear as you’re expecting, don’t worry. Over the 4 to 6 weeks after your cataract surgery, your sight will fluctuate as your eye heals and the lens implant settles. This also means your prescription will vary during this time, so it would be wise to avoid purchasing any new expensive glasses during this time.
If your occupation is non-strenuous and doesn’t require exposure to chemicals, dirt, dust, other contaminants, or the risk of physical trauma, you may return to work as soon as 1 or 2 days after cataract surgery. However, if your job is more physically demanding or puts you at risk of getting an eye infection, your surgeon will want you to take time off work for longer. This includes people who work in the military, physical trainers, swimming instructors, builders, or professional athletes.
In regards to driving, though you may feel you’re seeing clearly enough within a few hours, it’s important to avoid getting behind the wheel until your surgeon has checked your eye. Most clinics will organise a review appointment one day after the cataract operation.
It is not abnormal for some discomfort in your eye to persist for the first week or two during your cataract surgery recovery. This doesn’t necessarily mean something has gone wrong. Some people experience some ongoing dryness of the eyes and glare sensitivity, which may last for several months. Your surgeon will give you some simple tips on how to manage these side effects if they persist, such as using lubricating eyedrops or wearing sunglasses when you’re feeling uncomfortable in the light.
There are some conditions that are known to stretch out the cataract surgery recovery period. If you are at a higher risk of a cataract surgery-related complication, such as having diabetic retinopathy, a very advanced and dense cataract, or a corneal condition, the answer to how long to recover for cataract surgery can be very different for you. Although the corneal incision made during cataract surgery is very small, if you have a disorder that causes wounds to heal slowly, you may find your recovery period to be protracted.
Tips on Maximising Your Cataract Surgery Recovery Process
Prior to your cataract surgery, your surgeon will have probably already given you an idea of what to expect during your recovery period so you can make the appropriate arrangements and take time off work. Always follow your surgeon’s specific instructions, as they’re designed to give you the best chance of recovering after cataract surgery with minimal discomfort and complication. In essence, you want to keep the eye clean and protected from physical injury or infection. You will have the best chance of achieving that through:
- Using your prescribed eye drops. You will have up to three bottles of different medications, with varying dosage schedules. Even if you’re feeling good within a week or two, keep using the drops until the end of the prescribed course.
- Avoiding any movements that might increase the pressure in your head (and eye). This includes bending over, heavy lifting or other strenuous activity, coughing, sneezing, and vomiting.
- Ensuring you keep your eye away from the risk of physical injury. This might even include not putting your face too close to your young grandchildren or active pets.
- Keeping soaps, lotions, aerosols, etc, away from your eye area.
- Avoiding dusty, dirty environments, including being outdoors on a windy day or in a dusty basement.
- Keeping unsterile water out of your eye. This includes the swimming pool, ocean, spas, and saunas. Although these bodies of water are okay to sit in, they are often home to microorganisms that are known to cause severe infections, particularly in compromised eyes.
You shouldn’t expect any significant deterioration during the healing process. That means if your eye begins to become redder, more blurry, more painful, or starts producing discharge, it’s important to see your surgeon immediately. If you’re unable to get hold of your surgeon, consider going to your local optometrist or the emergency department at the nearest hospital.
Even if your cataract surgery went smoothly and you followed all the post-operative healing instructions to the letter, it is still possible to develop a complication such as an infection or swelling around the macula. Anything that doesn’t feel right with your eye after cataract surgery should be attended to immediately.
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Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
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