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Vision Special Report

What You Should Expect After Cataract Surgery

You've decided to have cataract surgery, and the doctor has explained the procedure. But what can you expect after the surgery is over? This guide can help answer your questions about what lies ahead.

Within the First Several Days of Cataract Surgery: It is very important not to rub or press on your eye after cataract surgery, even though you may have some itching, tearing, and mild discomfort. This discomfort can be relieved by taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) every four to six hours. Your eye may also be sensitive to light and to touch but that should only last a day or two.

You should continue to wear your eye patch until your first doctor’s visit. Your doctor will ask you to wear a shield over your eye at night and your eyeglasses during the day (sunglasses when you are outdoors) for at least a week to protect your eye from injury. You should also refrain from bending over to pick up heavy objects for the first few days. These activities can increase pressure in the eye and on the wound. You can take a shower the day after surgery, but be careful not to get soap or water in your eye.

At the first post-surgery visit, your doctor will test the eye pressure and will prescribe medication if it is too high. He or she will also ask you to use antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eyedrops in gradually decreasing doses to lower the risk of infection and to reduce inflammation, respectively. If you were told to stop taking any of your usual medications to prepare for the cataract surgery, at your first visit, you and your surgeon should discuss when to restart them.

Initially, you may have blurry vision, some aching, and some bruising on your eyelid or eye. However, you should notice improvement in your vision within a few days. Your spirits and energy may also slump temporarily, a possible reaction to the anesthesia or the stress of surgery.

Within the Month of Cataract Surgery: Since your eye will not be completely healed for several weeks after cataract surgery, your doctor may continue to limit your activities, such as swimming, jogging, yoga, tennis, or lifting weights. At the final postoperative visit, which usually occurs between the second and sixth week after surgery, your eye doctor will test your vision, examine the eye, and take measurements to see if and how eyeglasses will improve your vision further.

Possible Long-Term Complications of Cataract Surgery: Although relatively rare, serious complications can occur months or years after your cataract operation. Potential long-term complications include:

  • Retinal detachment. The warning signs for retinal detachment are loss of vision ("like a curtain or veil") or flashes of light. If you notice these, call your doctor immediately. Your retina can usually be reattached, especially if the detachment is caught early.

  • After-cataract. A more common complication, posterior capsular opacification, or after-cataract, occurs in about 20% of people who undergo cataract surgery. This complication arises when the back of the lens capsule (which remains in the eye to support the new implant) grows thicker and starts to become cloudy, dimming vision. To correct this problem, your doctor can perform a yttrium-aluminum- garnet (YAG) capsulotomy, a laser treatment that creates a tiny hole in the lens capsule, allowing light into the retina.

Success Rates: Cataract surgery is successful in more than 98% of cases. In fact, many people have better vision after cataract surgery -- including improved perception of light and color -- than they did before surgery, and they may be less dependent on eyeglasses than they were before surgery. However, if you also have other eye conditions such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, or retinitis pigmentosa, the improvement may be less noticeable.

Posted in Vision on November 27, 2009

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