Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in Australia. Perhaps someone in your family has just had cataract surgery, or perhaps you’re about to undergo the operation yourself. Either way, it can be useful to understand what to expect during the cataract surgery recovery period, such as the anticipated recovery time, and what you should and shouldn’t do as your eye heals.
Health Tips to Optimise Your Eye Cataract Surgery Recovery Treatment
Whether your cataract surgery procedure was full of challenges for your eye surgeon or if it was smooth and uneventful, you will need to follow some guidelines to reduce your risk of post operative complications. Adhering to your eye surgeon’s instructions can help to fast-track your cataract surgery treatment recovery, minimise your recovery time, and get you back on track to resuming your normal activities.
In most cases, cataract surgery procedures are quick and uncomplicated. The typical success rate quoted in Australia for cataract surgery is around 98%. This means only 2% of cataract operations result in a complication that negatively impacts the visual outcome.
Your surgeon may recommend slightly different cataract eye surgery recovery guidelines, depending on your specific situation. However, here is what to expect after your operation and the general rules to help you make the most of your recovery time.
Soon After Your Surgery
Many people feel their vision is quite good within a few hours of leaving the operating theatre. However, don’t worry if it’s not as clear as you were hoping for; it will take some time to settle. You should expect your eye to feel a little gritty or dry, and look puffy and red. You may also feel slightly more glare sensitive. This is all normal.
Wear your protective eye shield
Immediately after your cataract surgery procedure, your ophthalmologist will place a plastic shield over your operated eye, secured with surgical tape. This should be kept on for at least the first 24 hours and overnight when you sleep. Your ophthalmologist may recommend you continue to use the eye shield overnight for the first week or so.
Straight after your procedure, you may be feeling slightly unwell and groggy, especially if you were given a light sedative to help relieve any anxiety or restlessness. Your ophthalmologist will have advised you in advance to have someone else drive you home from the operating theatre. However, you may prefer to avoid driving for the first few days or even longer, until you feel comfortable with your new vision. Your surgeon may advise you to avoid driving until your review appointment to ensure your vision reaches the legal driving requirements.
Get your prescription drops from the pharmacy
If your surgeon doesn’t provide you with your post operative eye drop medications on the spot, be sure to fill the script at a pharmacy on the same day. You will be prescribed 2 or 3 bottles of different medications to be instilled several times a day.
Take a break
When you get home after your cataract surgery, take the opportunity to put your feet up and have a rest. Letting your body physically rest is an important part of cataract eye surgery recovery. Depending on your occupation, you may return to work in as little as a few days after your operation.
Avoid strenuous activity
Avoid vigorous physical activity, whether it’s exercise, carrying heavy grocery bags, or even vacuuming the house, for the first week or so. Where possible, you will also want to suppress any coughing or sneezing fits.
Keep your eye clean
For the first day or two you may want to avoid anything getting into your eye, including soaps, shampoos, and cleansers. It’s still important to keep the eye clean by wiping it with clean water and a cotton pad. Avoid cosmetics and moisturisers around the eye for at least the first week or so.
A Couple of Weeks After Surgery
By now your eye is probably feeling pretty good and your vision is closer to stabilising. Any redness and puffiness around the eye is likely to have resolved by now. Your eye may still be feeling slightly dry; you can manage this with tear lubricants as recommended by your surgeon. You would have had one or two follow-up checks by this stage.
Continue your eye drop medication
Two weeks into your cataract surgery procedure recovery time, you should be roughly halfway through your bottles of drops. Continue to use these as per your dosing schedule. Even if your eye is feeling almost back to normal, it’s important to continue your course of eye drop medications to the end.
Stopping your drops early before your eye has fully healed will put you at risk of rebound inflammation or infection.
Avoid dirty environments
If your hobbies or occupation carry a risk of catching a foreign particle in the eye, you may still want to hold off on these activities or use extra eye protection. These can include activities such as gardening or working on a construction site or dusty warehouse.
Continue to keep the eye clean
By now it should be okay to wash your face as you usually would but if you find your usual products, such as cosmetics or facial cleansers, irritating your eye, stop using those products immediately.
At no point during eye cataract surgery treatment recovery is deterioration of your vision, increase in redness or pain of the eye, or pus/mucous discharge from the eye, considered normal. If you experience this at any stage, be sure to contact your eye specialist or optometrist on (03) 9070 3580 immediately.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.