Although exceedingly common, cataracts are fortunately one of those eye conditions that can be effectively and completely treated. Currently, the only treatment is through cataract surgery, which is a highly effective and safe procedure. Cataract surgery is able to successfully restore any vision loss from a cataract, and may even be able to reduce your dependency on glasses or contact lenses afterwards.
If you’re considering cataract surgery, the operation itself is only one part of the experience. Here’s what to expect after cataract surgery and what you can do to optimise your recovery.
What to Expect After Cataract Surgery with Your Vision?
Immediately after your cataracts have been removed, your sight is going to feel a little different. If your cataracts were quite advanced before surgery, your vision is probably going to feel very different!
As it can take several weeks for your sight to stabilise and settle, don’t expect your vision to be crystal clear as you walk out of the operating theatre. However, depending on the state of your vision prior to cataract surgery, you may find your sight is already significantly clearer at day 1 post-operation. Over the following 4-6 weeks, you may find your clarity of sight continues to improve as any swelling of the cornea heals and the intraocular lens implant settles in its membrane capsule.
It’s important to understand that cataract surgery will not restore any vision lost from other eye conditions, such as macular degeneration or corneal scarring. It is also not expected to improve your vision to a level past what you could achieve with glasses or contact lenses before the cataract formed in the first place. Your eye surgeon should be aware of any such eye conditions with the potential to affect the outcome of your cataract surgery. This will help to guide you in what to expect after cataract surgery and provide you with the most realistic expectations.
In addition to the world looking clearer, you can expect a few other changes once your cataracts have been removed. The colour of an age-related cataract is often yellowish-brown, which can cause some alterations to your colour discrimination. Once the cataract has been extracted, you may find colours appear brighter, more vibrant, and ultimately, more accurately represented in your visual perception.
Some patients report an increase in glare sensitivity immediately after having their cataracts removed. This is typically because the eye has become accustomed to a reduced amount of light making it through the cataract. After cataract surgery, suddenly more light is able to pass through to the light-sensing retina, resulting in you feeling a little glare sensitive. This sensation is usually temporary, self-resolving in a few months as you adjust.
In the meantime, you may want to use sunglasses in bright, dazzling conditions or reduce the brightness of your screens to make things more comfortable.
You may experience some fluctuation of your sight as a result of dry eye. Dry eye is a common side effect of cataract surgery. It is thought to occur due to disruption to the nerves of the cornea during the procedure, which affects the production of tears. Similar to increased glare sensitivity, this is expected to resolve by itself over the following months after your operation. In the interim, you may use artificial lubricant drops to soothe and protect the surface of your eye.
What to Expect After Cataract Surgery with Potential Complications?
The likelihood of your surgery going south is extremely low. However, as with any medical operation, there is a small risk for a serious complication or adverse effect. Some of these may result in permanent and significant vision impairment, especially if not managed promptly. After your surgery, if you experience any of the following, it is important to contact your eye specialist immediately. In the event that you are unable to get hold of your usual ophthalmologist, you may visit your local optometrist or go to the nearest hospital emergency department. Signs of a potentially severe complication include:
- Increasing pain and redness around the eye
- Deteriorating vision, whether a gradual decline or a sudden drop
- Black areas or shadows across your sight
- Flashing lights and/or floaters in your field of view
Maximising Your Recovery
After your operation, your surgeon will provide you with some post-operative guidelines in order to make your recovery as smooth as possible. It is important to follow these instructions closely as their aim is to minimise your risk of infection and trauma to the eye, including from sources you may not have considered before. If you need any clarity on any of the instructions, be sure to ask.
Your post-op guidelines may include instructions such as:
- Resting as much as possible and avoiding strenuous activities
- Wearing your protective eye shield overnight for the first week or so
- Avoiding unsterile water in the operated eye, including from swimming pools, saunas, hot tubs, and at the beach
- Avoiding dirty or dusty environments
- Completing your prescribed course of eye drops
After your eye has fully recovered from cataract surgery, it is important to keep up your routine eye tests, whether with your optometrist or ophthalmologist. Even having had your cataracts removed, it is still possible to develop other ocular conditions, such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration. Maintaining regular checkups with your eye care professional will help to take care of your eye health long after the cataracts are gone.
Call us today on (03) 9070 3580 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.