Everything you need to know

Cataract surgery aftercare

You’re booked in for your cataract surgery and now you’re wondering what it will be like afterwards. How long will it be until you can drive, play golf or have the grandchildren over? 

Here are our tips to a fast and stress-free recovery.

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Your immediate recovery

Your eye will be very blurry. This is because of the local anaesthetic drops and antibiotic ointment used during surgery. It will take a while for these drops to wear off so expect the first 24-48 hours to be blurry. You will also have an eye shield over your operated eye which will partially obscure your vision. The eye shield protects your eye from contamination and also prevents you from inadvertently interfering with your eye. Wear the eye shield for at least the first 24 hours and over night for the first week.

You will have drops to take on your return home, as instructed by your surgeon.

Driving after cataract surgery

Driving immediately after surgery is not advised. The use of local anaesthesia and the impact of surgery on your vision would make it difficult to drive safely. Extra light sensitivity and a loss depth perception (because binocular vision is limited) will also affect your ability to drive.

By around 72 hours post surgery, your sight will have settled down and become much clearer. You should be back or nearly back to driving standard. Don’t worry if it takes longer – everyone is different.

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Lady talking on phone before cataract conusltation
Cat, Optometrist at Vision Scotland

Side effects of cataract surgery

Your vision will improve over the next few days but you may experience some side effects after cataract surgery. The most common are sensitivity to light, grittiness, watering, blurred vision or double vision. These symptoms are common and usually dissipate over the first few weeks.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, please call Vision Scotland promptly so we can make sure there is no cause for concern : Vision loss, pain that persists despite the use of pain medications, flashes or multiple spots in front of your eyes, nausea or vomiting.

Activity after cataract surgery

Avoid heaving lifting as it can cause the pressure inside your eyes to increase. This can interfere with healing and cause damage to the eye. Try to avoid strenuous activities over the first seven to ten days. Examples are: heavy gardening, running, hill walking, childcare for young children who require lifting and golf (if carrying heavy clubs or caddy bags).

Other activities that raise intraocular pressure include  bending below your waist to pick up items or reaching up high. We suggest consciously considering the activities you carry out in the house in the week before cataract surgery. Identify the tasks you do daily that cause you to reach high, bend low or generally strain yourself. It is a good idea to eliminate easily avoidable tasks such as finding the remote control, searching for the phone charger, carrying heavy pots.

Locate frequently used (and misplaced) items and leave at waist height for your return from hospital, pre-prepare a meal that can easily be heated, leave the kettle with water in and a cup ready with a tea bag. If you have a dog arrange for a friend to do walks.

Your eyes will be sensitive to airborne particles. It is a good idea to vacuum and clean before cataract surgery. This protects your eyes from contaminants such as pet hair, dander, dust, and dirt. It will also help to keep on top of the hoovering after cataract surgery but remember you need to take it easy so best ask your partner, a friend or your children to do it for you.

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Elderly couple going for a walk after cataract surgery with Mr Mantry at Vision Scotland
Eleanor, Optometrist at Vision Scotland

Eye hygiene after cataract surgery

Avoid activities that could increase risk of infection. You will probably find it tempting to touch or rub your eye after cataract surgery. This is an easy way to introduce bacteria, viruses and foreign particles to your eyes. Maintain vigorous hand cleaning with soap and water and resist the urge to touch your eyes. Use a disinfectant wipe to wash down surfaces commonly touched such as door handles, phones and taps.

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Between cataract surgeries

If you are having cataracts removed from both eyes, there will usually be a gap of a week or two between each surgery. This gives the first eye a chance to recover before the second eye surgery. This gap is a little strange for most people as one eye will have restored sight but the other will have it’s old vision.
If you wear spectacles, you can arrange for your optician to remove the lens from the spectacles of your operated eye. This allows you to continue to wear your glasses with the correct lens strength for the un-operated eye. Once both eyes have been operated on, you will have a post operative check up with your optometrist who can assess your new prescription and recommend the best option of glasses for you post surgery.

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Mr Ross talking to a patient
Mr Sanjay Mantry talking to a patient about RLE surgery

Follow up appointments

If your recovery post cataract surgery is going well there is no need to have a follow up appointment with your Vision Scotland surgeon. If you have any concerns or you would just like the reassurance of a follow up consultation then please let us know, we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Four to six weeks after your cataract surgery, you will return to your community optometrist for a post operative check up. We strongly recommend you attend this appointment for a general eye health check and new glasses if required.

Advice for a speedy recovery

You will benefit from a good rest so that your eyes get a chance to heal after cataract surgery. Straining your eyes can prevent them from resting properly. If you can, go home and take a nap after surgery.

Other ways to prevent straining after cataract surgery:

  • Clear your schedule for a couple of days. If you work, take some time away from screens.
  • Don’t watch too much TV. Give yourself regular breaks from the television. A few minutes every hour will allow your eyes to relax.
  • Protect your eyes from the sun. Wear sunglasses if it is sunny.
  • Try to avoid vigorous coughing, sneezing and vomiting (if possible).

What can I expect post cataract surgery?

We very much hope you will enjoy the results of your surgery. The long term freedom from blur and fear of losing your sight further comes as such a relief for many of our patients. Vision Scotland patients report not just an improvement of their sight but the ability to see colours truly again, and to achieve the sight that they may not have experienced for many years. The further advanced your cataract the greater the comparison will be but even if your cataract is very early, you will still experience an improvement, if only freedom from glasses.

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Vision Scotland Optometrist Cat talking to a patient
Elderly couple going for a walk after cataract surgery with Mr Mantry at Vision Scotland

Results of cataract surgery

Over 90% of our patients achieve 6/6 (20/20) vision after cataract surgery.

Our surgeons have collectively accumulated over 45 years of experience carrying out cataract surgery. We take pride in achieving excellent outcomes with the majority of our patients no longer needing glasses for distance wear. Depending on the type of lens chosen, trifocal lenses reduce the need for reading glasses and all other near vision tasks. Complications in cataract surgery are rare. Almost all our patients will experience some dryness of the eyes for a few weeks after the operation and generally this resolves over time. However, eyes are very individual and successful surgery in one eye does not always predict straightforward surgery in the other. Underlying conditions can complicate the surgery, and any complications that do arise in surgery will be dealt with during the operation where possible.

Similarly, if a cataract is dense and does not afford the surgeon a view of the back of the eye prior to surgery, removing the cataract may reveal conditions such as macular degeneration which will reduce the vision achievable.

Occasionally the visual outcome is not as perfect as we would like and a laser top up operation will be offered once the eye has had a chance to settle down – usually after the first six months. This is a short procedure to bring the prescription closer to the desired outcome and will be free of charge in the first year.

Another straightforward complication can be the development of a post capsular opacity, known as a PCO which can develop at any time. This is a cloudy layer of scar tissue that can form on our new lens and give you similar symptoms of blur and glare as your initial cataract. These can be fairly common and can be simply treated with a procedure called YAG, involving a laser to clear the vision. If you experience and report this in the first year, this will be treated free of charge.

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Covid guidance

Your hospital has robust processes in place to protect you and other patients from covid. Three or four days before cataract surgery you will either be asked to come into the hospital for a PCR test or you will be sent a test to carry out at home.

After taking your covid test you will be need to self isolate prior to your operation.

Lateral flow tests are unfortunately not accepted forms of testing pre surgery.

Eleanor the Optometrist smiling at a patient

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