All surgical procedures come with a recovery period. Depending on the type of surgery and your own body’s healing response, the post-operative period can be long or short, complicated or smooth. Cataract surgery is considered to be a safe and effective procedure with very low rates of complications. However, it is possible to further minimise your risk of complications by adhering to certain post-cataract surgery care guidelines. Read about how to make your cataract surgery recovery as uneventful as possible.
Do I Need Cataract Surgery?
Prior to going under the metaphorical knife, you want to be sure that the timing for cataract surgery is right and that it’s a necessary procedure. It is sensible to be guided by your trusted eyecare professional, whether ophthalmologist or optometrist, however, here are a few things for you to consider.
Can you see what you need to be able to see, as comfortably as you’d like to see it? One of the main factors that guide the recommendation for surgery is a patient’s visual demands. A person’s daily requirements of their vision will vary widely from one individual to another. For example, a taxi driver who often works at night-time will be more affected by the glare of headlights caused by a cataract compared to an accountant. The point where you feel your vision is no longer adequate for your usual activities is typically when you may decide to pursue extraction of your cataract. If you’ve been told you have a cataract developing but are still content with your vision, there’s no need to rush into surgery.
Do you meet the vision requirements to hold a driver’s licence in your state? In Australia, the general minimum vision requirement is 6/12 vision with your two eyes together. As this number may not mean much to you, it’s important to keep up with regular visits to your optometrist if you have a cataract to ensure your vision doesn’t drop below this level.
Your optometrist will be able to tell you if your vision is approaching the minimum visual acuity to be able to keep your licence.
Even if you’re content with your vision as it relates to your daily activities, if you are unable to read the 6/12 line on the letter chart due to cataracts, your eye care professional will advise you to undergo surgery.
Are you going via the private or public health system? Waitlist times tend to be much longer in the public health system compared to private. If you are unable to afford surgery with a private specialist, and your cataract has been progressing, you may consider putting your name onto the public waiting list sooner rather than later.
Post Cataract Surgery Care
If you’ve decided that it’s time for cataract surgery, it pays to know these cataract surgery recovery tips. Post cataract surgery care is not complex, but following your cataract surgeon’s instructions can help to minimise your risk of complications occurring during the cataract surgery recovery period.
Use all your prescription eye drops as directed.
Your surgeon will give you a prescription for an antibiotic and one or two anti-inflammatory drops. You will need to use all of these medications several times a day for about 4 weeks. It’s important to keep using the eye drops until the end of the course even if you think your eye is better. Stopping the drops too early can put your eye at risk of catching an infection or sparking new inflammation.
Don’t let anything contaminate your eye.
Although this is a good idea even when you’re not needing to think about post-cataract surgery care, it’s especially important as your eye is healing from a cataract procedure. Contaminants like dirt and dust are easy to think of, such as avoiding the attic of your house or the garden on a windy, dusty day. However, there are also other sources of potential infection that may not come to mind so quickly, such as swimming pools and saunas. Unsterile sources of water contain a multitude of pathogens that can readily infect an eye vulnerable from recent cataract surgery. During the early days of your cataract surgery recovery, you will also want to avoid any cosmetics, skin products, soaps, and aerosols around your eye.
Seek attention if anything feels not right.
Immediately after your cataract surgery, you can expect your eye to be red, gritty, and slightly blurry. In some cases, it can take a few weeks for the eye to feel more comfortable and some people experience persistent dryness after having a cataract operation. Your vision may also take some weeks to stabilise completely; typically it can take up to 4 to 6 weeks. However, if you experience any of the following, it’s important to contact your cataract surgeon as soon as possible.
- An increasingly red eye
- Increasing eye pain
- A mucous or pus discharge from the eye
- Deteriorating vision
- Unexpected visual symptoms, such as haloes around lights or gaps in your visual field
- Flashing lights in the vision or new floaters
- Headaches and nausea
If you’re unable to get hold of your cataract surgeon, go to your local optometrist or hospital emergency department.
Throughout your recovery process, your cataract surgeon will conduct two or three routine review appointments. When he or she observes that your eye has healed as expected and your vision has settled, you will be referred back to your optometrist to recheck your prescription and for ongoing care.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.