After you’ve had your cataracts removed through cataract surgery, what you do during the cataract surgery recovery period can make a difference in how well your eyes heal. However, just as important as what you do, is what you don’t do. Here’s what not to do after cataract surgery.
What Not to Do After Cataract Surgery
Following your ophthalmologist’s cataract surgery recovery guidelines is the key to optimising your post-cataract surgery healing and minimising any complications or adverse events during this period. Their advice on what not to do after cataract surgery is aimed at ensuring your body has time to recover, allowing the lens implant to settle in the eye, and avoiding an eye infection. Although your specific post-operative instructions may differ slightly depending on your individual circumstances, these are general rules on what not to do after cataract surgery.
Don’t drive too soon.
Even though your vision may be feeling bright and fabulous the day after your cataract surgery (though for some it may not be, depending on your body’s healing response), try to avoid getting behind the wheel before being given the all-clear from your ophthalmologist. There are a few reasons for this. One is that although your sight may feel subjectively sharp, you don’t really know what your visual acuity is until you’ve had it checked. In Australia, there are vision standards for being permitted on our roads.
Another reason is that your eye may still be feeling glare sensitive after your cataract surgery, which is not an uncommon side effect. The glare off the road or other cars in the sun can be temporarily blinding, while the glare from car headlights or traffic lights at night can also be debilitating, making it dangerous to drive.
As cataract surgery is typically performed one eye at a time, undergoing the operation in one eye may leave a large prescription difference between your eyes. This is because the artificial lens implant inserted during cataract operation is usually calculated to correct your refractive error. Having a very large prescription difference between the eyes can be disorientating and interfere with your depth perception.
Don’t stop your eyedrops earlier than advised.
Your cataract surgery recovery will be helped along with the use of a few prescribed eyedrop medications. These will usually be an antibiotic, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, and a steroid drop. The antibiotic is to protect the eye from any opportunistic infections while your body is in a vulnerable state, and the other two drops are to help manage the post-operative inflammation, which is part of the body’s natural response to surgery.
Your dosing regimen may vary throughout the course of your post-cataract surgery healing, perhaps starting with four times a day for the first couple of weeks and then tapering off for the following weeks.
Stopping these eyedrops earlier than recommended can expose your eye to the risk of a sight-threatening infection or aggressive rebound inflammation, which can prolong your healing process.
Don’t risk contamination or injury to your eye.
Not all risks can be foreseen or avoided. However, where possible, it’s a good idea to keep your eyes as protected as possible. For example, if it’s a blustery day outside with debris flying about, hold off on gardening or going for a walk through the park until the weather has calmed down.
The risk of contamination can also come from some unexpected sources. Unsterile water is known to contain many types of pathogens, including ones that can cause devastating consequences on your eyes and sight if allowed to cause an infection. Avoid swimming pools, saunas, hot tubs, and the ocean until given the all-clear by your ophthalmologist.
Depending on your occupation, you may be okay to return to work within a few days (such as those with more sedentary desk work), while others may need to wait for a week or two. If your job involves risk of trauma to the face, such as the armed forces or contact sports, or brings you into very dirty environments, such as construction or commercial cleaning, you should ensure you’ve taken adequate time off from work.
Don’t buy new glasses or contact lenses until your prescription is stable.
It usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks for your eyes to stabilise after cataract surgery. During the recovery period, your cornea is still healing from the incisions made during the operation, your eye will still be slightly inflamed, and the lens implant needs time to settle in the membranous bag in which it was inserted. These factors can cause your sight and prescription to shift for the following month or so immediately after your cataract surgery procedure. In addition to this, the temporary post-operative dry eye often experienced after cataract surgery can cause the prescription testing to be variable and unreliable. Because of these factors, it’s wise to hold off on spending money on new glasses or contact lenses until your ophthalmologist is confident that your sight has settled. Once this happens, you’ll most likely be returned to the care of your optometrist for a prescription check.
Don’t delay if something goes wrong.
If anything doesn’t feel right with your sight or eye after your operation, contact your ophthalmologist immediately.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
After Cataract Surgery: A Post-Surgical Guide.
Recovery: Cataract Surgery