How Many Days of Rest Are Needed After Cataract Surgery?

Apr 21, 2023

Eye surgery can be intimidating, even when it is one of the safest and most widely performed procedures in the world, such as cataract surgery. A long and arduous recovery period can make patients apprehensive to seek the treatment they need. Normally, recovery after cataract surgery is a relatively short and uncomplicated process.

What are cataracts?

Eyes have natural clear lenses that help control visual focus. With age, the proteins in the natural eye lens change, causing the lens to become cloudy. A clouded lens, or cataract, prevents light from easily passing through the eye, leading to impaired vision. A cataract can occur in one eye or both eyes. Lenses become cloudy over a long period of time, usually becoming noticeable to adults in their 60s, 70s, and beyond. Lenses may also opacify early as a result of an eye injury or a genetic eye disorder.

Cataract symptoms

Clouded lenses can cause dim, blurry vision and light sensitivity. Increased glare, poor depth perception, muted colors, double vision in one eye, and spots in your vision are all common symptoms as well. Some people may experience a temporary improvement in near vision. By blocking light, clouded lenses worsen night vision, making activities like driving at night dangerous. If you begin to notice these symptoms, it is wise to schedule an exam or consultation with an eye care professional.

Why do people need cataract surgery?

Over time, clouded lenses can seriously impair vision. Surgery is the only way to remove cataracts. If left untreated, lenses can opacify to the point of blindness. Fortunately, cataract-related vision loss is preventable, especially in the U.S., where cataract surgery is widely accessible.

Cataract surgery enhances vision not just by taking out a cloudy eye lens, but by implanting an intraocular lens in its place. Intraocular lenses are long-lasting devices that improve refractive errors, such as myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia.

People may be candidates for cataract surgery as soon as they notice cataract symptoms impacting them. Cataract surgery is safer and more effective than it has ever been. The procedure is generally short and the recovery most often uneventful.

What happens during cataract surgery?

During cataract surgery, the surgeon makes an incision in the cornea to access the eyes natural lens. Then, the surgeon uses an instrument to fracture or soften the lens and extract the cataract. After the clouded lens is removed, it is replaced with the intraocular lens that the doctor and patient select before the operation. Typically, one eye is operated on at a time. For patients with a cataract in both eyes, surgery on the second eye is usually performed as soon as the first eye has recovered.

Cataract surgery is an outpatient treatment, meaning that patients can go home shortly after the procedure. The cataract procedure itself generally requires about 20 minutes. Following the operation, patients wait for a brief time before going home to ensure there are no immediate complications. Protective eye shields are given to prevent hands or debris from making contact with the eye. Patients should arrange for someone else to drive them home from the procedure and anywhere else necessary until cleared to drive.

Cataract surgery for post-LASIK patients

Choosing the optimal lens implant is not as easy in post-LASIK eyes due to the alterations which occur in the corneal curvature. Consequently, one might consider selecting a surgeon with experience in both cataract surgery and LASIK—not only for the lens implant selection, but also if laser correction should be necessary for any postoperative residual refractive error.

The Columbus Laser and Cataract Center surgeons have over 50 combined years’ experience with both procedures. In fact, they have been voted #1 multiple years in The Columbus Dispatch‘s “Top Doctors.” Using patients’ pre- and post-LASIK eye measurements and our own assessments, we can calculate the proper intraocular lens for each patient. When selecting someone to perform your cataract surgery, especially if you have previously undergone LASIK eye surgery, put your vision in the hands of an expert.

What is cataract surgery recovery like?

A successful result from cataract surgery requires carefully following the surgeon’s postoperative instructions. Complications are uncommon, but it is important to closely follow the antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drop schedule. Even if you feel it is not necessary, failure to complete the entire course of drops can result in late retinal swelling. All instructions are designed to give you the best chance of a healthy recovery.

How long is cataract surgery recovery?

Most people can resume their normal activities within the first few days after surgery. Visual recovery can also take a few days or more. When working towards reducing the dependency on glasses or contacts, this process may take several months to achieve the final result.

How many days of rest are necessary?

Cataract surgery recovery is different for every patient, but most people begin experiencing better vision within 24-48 hours. Plan to stay home from work for 1-3 days to rest while your vision clears up. At your follow-up appointment 1-2 days after your procedure, your surgeon will let you know if you may resume reasonable activities, such as driving.

Side effects after cataract surgery

Fluctuating vision in the days and weeks following the procedure is common. In most cases this is due to dryness and normally will improve over time. However, for those with preexisting or persistent dry eye disease, dryness will continue or increase after treatment.

How much time after cataract surgery before improved vision?

Immediately following the procedure, patients may notice that colors appear brighter and focus is sharper. Many experience clearer vision 24-48 hours after cataract surgery. Side effects usually subside within a few days. Everyones recovery is different, but when your eyes are healed about a month after cataract surgery, you will be able to experience the benefits of the procedure.

Once your vision has stabilized several weeks after surgery, you will have an eye exam with your doctor to update your prescription, completing your journey to the clearest possible vision. Thanks to premium intraocular lenses, many patients are less dependent on glasses after surgery.

Possible complications

Vision-threatening complications from cataract surgery occur very infrequently. However, if a patient suspects an issue, they should contact their doctor immediately. Contact your doctor if you experience worsening vision, eye pain, redness, or swelling. You should also call if you have pus or discharge coming from the eye, as this could be a sign of infection.

Is sleep comfortable after cataract surgery?

You are welcome to sleep when you come home from surgery. Wear your eye shield while sleeping or napping for at least a full week to ensure that you do not accidentally rub, scratch, or make contact with your eye.

It is best to sleep on your back or lay on the opposite side of your operated eye. Some mild discomfort following surgery is normal, but if discomfort is keeping you from getting a good nights rest, talk to your doctor. Generally, you should not have to significantly alter your sleeping habits after cataract surgery.

What activities should be avoided after cataract surgery?

Do not drive until your doctor has cleared you (typically 1-2 days after surgery). Do not rub or put pressure on your eye, and do not allow direct water contact with your eye. Minimize your exposure to dust, wind, and pollen, which are all possible eye irritants.

For about 2 weeks, you should avoid strenuous activities that increase eye pressure. This means no heavy exertion, including bending over, lifting over 20lbs, or energetic exercise. Talk to your doctor if you plan on flying in an airplane after surgery.

Do not wear eye makeup, creams, or lotions for 4 weeks. Avoid saunas, swimming pools, and hot tubs for 4-6 weeks. These factors can all increase your risk of an eye infection.

What activities are acceptable?

When you get home from surgery, you may do reasonable activities such as reading or watching TV as soon as you feel ready. You may go on walks, but make sure to wear sunglasses when you are outside to protect your eyes. You should plan to wear sunglasses on bright days for a year following your surgery. You may shower and bathe as normal, but keep your eyes turned away from the showerhead. Wash your face with a washcloth to avoid direct water contact with your eye.

Enjoy clear, cataract-free vision

If you are suffering from impaired vision due to cataract symptoms, dont wait to seek care. Cataract surgery can restore your sight, giving you the independence and quality of life that you deserve. With a short recovery time, high patient satisfaction, and low risk of complications, theres no reason to put off better vision. You only get one pair of eyes, so look after them with excellent treatment from experts you can trust. Contact the team at Columbus Laser & Cataract Center today!