Cataract surgery involves replacing the cloudy lens in your eye with a clear, artificial one in order to improve the quality of your vision. Although it’s a common procedure, it’s still important to practise good aftercare to help ensure that you have a simple recovery with as few complications as possible.

Below we’ll explain the many ways you can aid your cataract surgery recovery at home, from simple aftercare recommendations to having a post-surgery eye test performed at home by a visiting optician.

What can I expect after my cataract surgery?

Most people can go home on the same day as their cataract surgery. The surgeon may place a protective shield or pad over your eye, which should be kept in place for a day or as instructed. Within a few hours of the procedure, you should start to have a return of feeling in your eye as the anaesthesia wears off, although it can take a few days for your vision to fully return.

It is normal to have mild discomfort, temporary fluid discharge and sensitivity to light after cataract surgery, alongside side effects such as grittiness, double vision, blurred vision, or a bloodshot eye for the first few days. These symptoms are completely normal part of cataract surgery recovery, although it’s worth making your surgeon aware if you do experience them.2

As part of your cataract surgery aftercare plan, you might also need to arrange for someone to care for you while your vision recovers. This is especially true for people who have poor vision in the other (non-operated) eye or elderly people who might find it difficult to get about the house without assistance.

How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?

The initial signs and symptoms of cataract surgery improve within the first few days as your eye starts healing. However, it can take four to six weeks to fully recover from the operation. During this time, you will be able to gradually return to normal activities like reading, watching TV and using a computer, depending on how your eye is healing. After six weeks, your eye should have healed completely, although it’s important to wait for your surgeon or eye doctor (ophthalmologist) to give you the all-clear for activities such as driving or returning to work.

Recovery and aftercare recommendations

To ensure you have the best results from your cataract surgery, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations. Here are some guidelines for cataract surgery aftercare:

  • Don’t overdo it for the first two to three days after your surgery. Avoid lifting heavy objects or doing household chores or strenuous exercise
  • Use your eye drops as directed and take pain medicine if needed
  • Avoid touching or rubbing your eye
  • Use the eye shield at night for at least the first week
  • Bathe and shower as usual but avoid soap or shampoo getting into your eye (use the eye shield provided to you)
  • Use sunglasses when outdoors to keep your sensitive eyes protected
  • Avoid swimming until your eye heals completely (four to six weeks)
  • Avoid eye make-up for four to six weeks
  • Read, watch TV, or use a computer as much as your vision allows, but do not drive until your doctor says you can
  • Don’t undertake air travel without the go-ahead from your doctor

Cataract surgery complications to consider

As with all surgeries, there are some risks involved with cataract operations, although these are usually quite minor. Most complications during cataract surgery recovery can be managed successfully, however they can delay your recovery and require further treatment and follow-up. You should get in touch with your surgeon if you have the following symptoms in your operated eye:

  • Decreased vision
  • Increased pain
  • Increased redness
  • Increased stickiness

You can take some precautions to reduce the risk of cataract surgery complications occurring. It’s important to use your eye drops as instructed because they will help your eye heal and prevent infection. Always wash your hands before applying the eye drops and don’t let the bottle touch your eye.2

How can a visiting optician support me through the recovery process?

If you are at all worried about your cataract surgery aftercare and are unable to attend an appointment in-store due to a physical or mental disability, a visiting optician can help. Once your eyes are fully healed, an optician can visit you at home to perform a full eye test, checking your vision and the overall health of your eyes. During the visit, you’ll be able to discuss your concerns with your optician and report any side effects you’re experiencing.

Your optician will perform some routine tests to check for any signs of complications early on, so you can get the correct treatment. For example, your optician can check for signs of inflammation and infection. If they do detect signs of inflammation, you might need further testing that requires more specialist machinery. In this case, we can refer you to a hospital or eye doctor if necessary.

Your optician can also use a visual acuity test to check whether the surgery has fully corrected your vision. It’s common that most people will need reading glasses after cataract surgery, unless you have had a multifocal implant fitted. If you do need glasses, it’s likely that your lens prescription will be much weaker than before surgery, so you’ll probably need to order a new pair. Your lens prescription will have changed due to the surgery, so, if you do need glasses, you’ll need to order a new pair with your updated prescription. Our opticians can talk you through your frame and lens options, and have a new pair of glasses delivered to your home.

For more information, read about our full home eye test procedure here.

Am I eligible for a Specsavers home eye exam?

The NHS funds free home eye tests for people with a physical or mental disability that prevents them from going to a store to see an optician. You can check theeligibility criteria for home eye tests on the Specsavers website to see if you qualify for an at-home eye exam to support your surgery recovery.

Visit the SpecsaversHome Visits landing page for further information on our domiciliary services and how our opticians can monitor your eye health at home.

References

1. NHS UK (2017). Overview Cataract Surgery. [Online]. Available at:https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cataract-surgery/ [Accessed 8 July 2020].

2. NHS UK (2017). Recovery Cataract Surgery. [Online]. Available at:https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cataract-surgery/recovery/ [Accessed 8 July 2020].