Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in Australia. Although
a scalpel coming towards your eye can be a pretty daunting sight, cataract surgery is considered a
very safe, highly successful operation. However, as with any surgical procedure, there is a necessary
period of recovery from cataract surgery that comes after you leave the operating theatre.
Ask around your friends or family members over the age of 60 and you’re likely to encounter at least
a few who have had cataract surgery in one or both eyes. Cataract surgery in Australia is a
reasonably straightforward operation and can be accessed either via the public or private health
Prior to undergoing the operation, you will have a consultation and thorough eye examination with
the ophthalmologist. This is to assess the cataract and its effects on your vision, as well as ensure
there are no other eye diseases that may limit the success of the cataract surgery or cause further
complications during your cataract surgery recovery. During this consultation, the doctor can also
discuss with you what sort of intraocular lens implant will work best for your visual needs and
lifestyle. The intraocular lens will replace the cataract once it’s been extracted.
Cataract surgery is performed as a day procedure under local anaesthesia around the eye. A small
incision is created in the cornea (the front surface of the eye) to allow other instruments to access
the cataract sitting behind the coloured iris. The cataract is broken into smaller fragments that can
be suctioned out, and then the intraocular lens is implanted in its place and the corneal incision
allowed to self-seal.
After the procedure, your eye surgeon will give you a list of instructions on how to ensure your
recovery from cataract surgery is as smooth as possible.
What to Expect After Cataract Surgery?
Immediately after you’ve undergone the eye operation, your vision is likely to feel a little cloudy and
blurry due to some normal post-operative swelling in the cornea. Despite this, you may already feel
your vision is much better than before the procedure, depending on how advanced your cataract
was, to begin with. Colours may feel more vibrant and lights a little (or a lot) brighter. It’s normal to
experience some glare sensitivity for up to several months as your eyes readjust to all the light now
unhindered by the cataract opacity.
Some people will also experience some degree of temporary dry eye after cataract surgery. This is
also normal even if you didn’t have dry eyes before the surgery and is due to the disruption of the
corneal nerves during the procedure.
Your eye may feel a bit sore and red during the first few days of your cataract surgery recovery.
Many people will feel their vision is quite clear within a few days of the procedure but you can
expect that it may continue to change and stabilise over the following 4 to 6 weeks. After this time,
once your ophthalmologist has given you the all-clear, you may see your optometrist to update your
glasses as necessary.
How to Optimise Recovery from Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery recovery is typically uneventful but its course can vary from individual to individual,
depending on your body’s healing response. Also depending on your hobbies, work, and general
visual demands and expectations, you may feel your full recovery from cataract surgery is longer or
shorter compared to someone else’s.
It’s important to follow your eye doctor’s post-operative instructions to make your cataract surgery
recovery as smooth as possible. Here are some tips to help your eye heal after cataract surgery.
- Protect your eye. After the operation, you’ll have a clear plastic shield taped over your eye. It’s likely
your eye doctor will recommend you keep this on the eye for a night or two to ensure you don’t
accidentally rub it while sleeping. After the shield comes off, it’s still important to keep the eye clean
and protected. This means avoiding dirty, dusty environments, or getting makeup and soaps in the
eye. You may be advised to avoid swimming pools, saunas, and spas for a week or two as these
water sources contain many pathogens that can cause an eye infection.
- Use your prescription eye drops. Your eye specialist will give you a prescription for a few different eyedrop medications. These will include one or two anti-inflammatory drops and a preventative antibiotic drop. Your dosing regime may taper slowly over the following 3 to 4 weeks but it’s important not to suddenly stop the medications early even if your eye feels okay. You may also choose to use a preservative-free lubricant eye drop for comfort if your eye feels dry or gritty after the surgery.
- Avoid strenuous activities. Like any surgical procedure, it’s a good idea to avoid physically exerting yourself after the operation. For a few weeks, you may be advised against intensive exercise or lifting heavy objects. Activities that may raise the pressure inside the eye, such as bending over or coughing, should also be avoided if possible.
- If something doesn’t feel right, contact your eye specialist. Even if the operation itself was uneventful, there is always a slim chance of a complication occurring during the post-operative period. If you experience increasing pain or redness, if these symptoms are unusually prolonged, or if there is any discharge from the eye or decrease in vision, contact your ophthalmologist immediately.
Call us now on (03) 9070 5753 for a consultation.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second
opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.