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Cataract Surgery Recovery

What to Expect During Cataract Surgery Recovery


Updated July 19, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

What should I expect after cataract surgery?

Your eye may feel slightly gritty or scratchy for the first 24-48 hours after cataract surgery. Your vision may be blurry due to dilation and antibiotic ointment that is sometimes instilled directly after the operation. You will be given a few different eye drops to use for the next couple of weeks after surgery. Make sure you have all of your prescriptions filled timely at your pharmacy. These eye drops are used to prevent infection and to manage inflammation.

You should avoid touching and rubbing your eye. Your surgeon will most likely order you to sleep with a protective eye patch at night to avoid an accidental finger in your eye. For the first few days after surgery, it is okay to use your eyes to read, write or watch television. You should avoid bending over and lifting heavy objects for the first week or two following surgery.

Your eye may be slightly inflamed after the surgery which may cause slightly blurry vision for the first week or so. Your doctor will mostly likely ask you to come in for several follow-up visits to monitor this inflammation and the quality of your vision.

What are possible complications of cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the safest surgeries performed with 98% of cases occurring with no complications. Occasionally post-operative problems may develop, including the following:
  • Infection – Infection directly after cataract surgery can be very serious and is considered an eye emergency. If you have more than expected pain or redness, call your physician immediately.
  • Inflammation – A certain amount of inflammation is expected after cataract surgery. Inflammation can cause light sensitivity, pain or achy eyes.
  • Swelling – Swelling in the back of the retina can occur in some patients. Although concerning, this usually resolves in most patients within a month or so.
  • Retinal detachment – Some patients are at a slightly higher risk for developing a retinal detachment during or shortly after cataract surgery. If you see spots, floaters or flashes of light, call your eye physician.
  • Posterior capsular haze – The capsule behind the new lens implant can thicken and become hazy in 20-40% of patients following cataract surgery. Your vision can become significantly blurry. A simple laser procedure known as "Yag capsulotomy" can be performed to remove this hazy capsule.


Murrill, Cynthia. Optometric Clinical Practice Guideline Care of the Adult Patient With Cataract, Reference Guide for Clinicians. Prepared by the American Optometric Association (AOA) Consensus Panel, approved by the AOA Board of Trustees, March 1999, Reviewed 2004.

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