Despite cataract surgery typically being considered a very safe, effective procedure, many patients
still have qualms about undergoing an eye operation. Common fears include complications occurring
during the surgery and the potential for losing further vision, and also the amount of time taken for
cataract surgery recovery.
While there is always the potential for an unexpected complication popping up during the cataract
surgery recovery period no matter what you do, there are ways you can minimise this risk and make
your post-operative healing process as smooth and uneventful as possible after your cataract
Cataract Surgery in a Nutshell
About 60 000 cataract surgery procedures are performed every day around the world. In the
Western world, success rates of this operation are very high, effectively restoring vision to pre-
cataract levels and sometimes even correcting your need for glasses or contact lenses in the process.
A cataract is an opacity of the lens inside the eye. Although there are several possible causes of
cataract, increasing age is the most common factor, causing this lens to gradually lose its
transparency and resulting in foggy or blurred vision.
Cataract surgery is an operation that removes, or extracts, this hazy, opaque lens from inside the eye
and replaces it with a clear implant. The procedure is performed as day surgery and usually is over in
about 15-20 minutes per eye.
Your eye will be numbed with a local anaesthetic injection or topical anaesthetic eye drops. A small
incision is then made in the cornea, the clear front surface of the eyeball. Through this incision, the
ophthalmologist can insert the instruments needed to break up the cataract into fragments small
enough to be suctioned out from the eye. The incision is also used to insert the implant, known as an
intraocular lens. The incision is designed to self-seal during the cataract surgery recovery period so
no stitches are required.
After your cataract surgery, aftercare instructions will be given to you by your ophthalmologist and
clinical care team. It’s important to follow these instructions in order to minimise your risk of
complications as much as possible.
Cataract Surgery Aftercare
Many cataract surgeons will conduct a few aftercare appointments to ensure your cataract surgery
recovery is going as expected. This exact schedule may differ depending on your surgeon or how
your operation went, but for uncomplicated procedures, you’re likely to have a review exam a day
after your surgery, a week after, and about a month after.
The following cataract surgery aftercare guidelines are a general guide only; your eye surgeon may have more specific instructions to your situation.
Use your prescribed eye drops
After your operation, your ophthalmologist will prescribe you two or
three different eye drop medications. These are often a corticosteroid, an antibiotic, and sometimes
also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. Your recommended dosing schedule is likely to change over
the three or four weeks you’re using these drops, such as using them four times a day for the first
week, then twice a day for the following week, etc. Your ophthalmologist and pharmacist should be
able to write these instructions out clearly for you but if you think you may get confused then be
sure to ask questions or take notes during your appointment. It’s important to stick to the
medication regime through to the end even if your eye feels back to normal quickly. If you’re
experiencing dryness or grittiness in your eyes post-operatively, your ophthalmologist may also
advise you to use lubricant eye drops to help you feel more comfortable.
Keep your eye clean
While avoiding dirt and dust in the eye is an obvious recommendation, it may
not be as common to think of other activities as a potential source of infection. Swimming pools,
saunas, spas, and even the shower are unsterile sources of water. While showering and good
hygiene is still important, your ophthalmologist may recommend you avoid swimming and hot tubs
for several weeks after your procedure. Soaps, shampoos, and makeup should also not go near the
operated eye for about a month, so use clean water only to wash your face.
Protect the eye. It goes without saying to protect your eye against any bumps and bruises while it’s
healing. Immediately after your surgery, you’ll go home with a plastic eye shield. Your
ophthalmologist may suggest you wear this overnight for at least a week to avoid accidentally
rubbing your eye during sleep.
Rest as needed
As your body heals, try to rest physically for the few days following surgery. If you’re
experiencing some pain or discomfort around the eye, you may take painkillers as required if you’ve
not been advised otherwise. It’s also recommended to avoid strenuous activities, such as exercise,
sports, lifting heavy objects, or physically demanding housework.
Immediately after your cataract surgery, you can use your vision as much as feels comfortable
Using your sight will not affect your eye healing during your cataract surgery aftercare period but you may
find your eye feels tired or dry more quickly as it’s still healing, particularly if you’re doing visually
intensive tasks like staring at the computer or reading. During your post-operative period, if anything
feels not right with your eyes or vision, 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.