Is blurred vision after cataract surgery normal?
Cataracts are a common eye condition, usually developed by people above the age of 60. It occurs when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and begins to affect your vision, making it challenging to carry out normal daily activities, like reading or driving.
Surgery is the most common treatment for cataracts. During the surgery, the natural lens which has become cloudy will be replaced by an artificial one. This surgery is extremely common and considerably effective in improving vision.1 As with all surgeries, however, there can be some post-surgery effects and symptoms to be aware of.
A common post-cataract-surgery effect is blurred vision, but depending on when and how long it happens for, it can be a normal part of the recovery process or a sign of posterior capsule opacification (a common cataract surgery after effect; essentially a ‘second cataract’). Here, we look at when the post-operation blurred vision is normal, and when it can be a sign of something else.
What are the causes and early signs of cataracts?
In most people, cataracts develop with age. As you grow older, the lens in the eye naturally becomes thicker, less transparent, and less flexible. Tissues in the lens can begin to break down and form clumps of protein that cloud small areas of the lens. Light cannot pass through these cloudy areas, which is why you may notice your vision becomes clouded or bleary.2 As the cataract continues to grow, the cloudiness becomes more noticeable and involves larger parts of the lens.
Besides cloudy, dim, or blurred vision, there can be other symptoms associated with a cataract. These include difficulty with night vision, haloes around lights, sensitivity to glare, fading of colours, and double vision on one side. People with cataracts may find they require brighter lights to read. Also, frequent changes in your glasses or contact lens prescription can indicate cataracts.2
What are the treatment options for cataracts?
Surgery is the only effective treatment for cataracts and improves vision in the majority of people.3 Cataract surgery is done under local anaesthetic, so it is pain-free, but you can be sedated if you are particularly anxious.
There are two types of cataract surgery: small incision cataract surgery (phacoemulsification) and extracapsular cataract extraction. These surgeries are usually done on an outpatient basis, so you shouldn’t need to stay at the hospital overnight, and it usually takes less than an hour to perform.
What is phacoemulsification?
During this type of cataract surgery, the surgeon inserts a tiny ultrasound probe into the eye through a small incision. The probe helps soften and break up the cloudy lens, which is then removed by suction. Once the surgeon has removed the cataract, they will insert an artificial lens (called an intraocular lens) which will allow light to pass through to your retina, restoring your vision.
How does extracapsular cataract extraction work?
In extracapsular cataract extraction (ECCE), the surgeon will make a slightly larger incision to remove the clouded lens. As before, once the clouded lens has been removed, a new, transparent, intraocular lens is positioned in the same place from where the natural one was removed.
The new lens is made of plastic, silicone, or acrylic and remains in the eye permanently. It cannot be seen or felt. It improves vision by focusing light clearly on the retina.4
Can vision go blurry after cataract surgery?
It is normal to experience some post-surgery symptoms, such as some mild discomfort, itching or blurred vision.3,4 This is a normal part of the process and happens because your eye is healing and adjusting to the new intraocular lens.1 Your vision will start to improve a few days after your surgery.
How long does vision stay blurry after cataract surgery?
Blurred vision after cataract surgery may last for a week or two, and this is nothing to worry about. Complete healing of the eye can take up to eight weeks.3 If you have had this procedure recently, be vigilant for symptoms such as eye swelling and redness, persistent pain, vision loss, flashes of light, or floaters in front of the eye. If these symptoms occur, contact your eye surgeon as soon as possible.3
Blurred vision after cataract surgery is not unexpected, however, if it persists or occurs after a length of time after surgery (for example, if you begin to experience blurred vision two years after cataract surgery), it can be a sign of posterior capsule opacification.
What is posterior capsule opacification?
During cataract surgery, the lens capsule (outer covering) is not removed. This membrane is left in place to support the lens implant. Posterior capsule opacification (PCO) — also known as secondary cataract or after-cataract — is a condition in which the lens capsule becomes cloudy and starts to affect your vision. PCO can develop months to years after the original procedure, and it can seem like the cataract is coming back.4
There is a fairly simple treatment for PCO called YAG laser capsulotomy. Doctors use a laser beam to make a small opening in the cloudy capsule which allows light to pass through. It is an outpatient procedure that takes less than five minutes to perform. It is painless and you can go home after a short period of observation. There should be a gradual improvement in vision over the next several days.4
To discover more about the symptoms and causes of cataracts, as well as different treatments available, visit our cataracts resource.
1. Mayo Clinic. (no date). Cataract Surgery. [Online]. Available at:
[Accessed 2 September 2019].
2. Mayo Clinic. (no date). Cataracts. [Online]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353790 [Accessed 2 September 2019].
3. Mayo Clinic. (no date). Cataracts Diagnosis and Treatment. [Online]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353795 [Accessed 2 September 2019].
4. American Optometric Association. (no date). Cataract Surgery. [Online]. Available at: https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/cataract/cataract-surgery [Accessed 2 September 2019].