How to care for your eye after Cataract Surgery - SightMD Skip to main content

February 20, 2022

How to care for your eye after Cataract Surgery

Extreme close up of elderly person's blue eye

Vision loss due to the development of a cataract in the eye is highly common. Fortunately, cataract surgery is safe, frequently conducted, and painless. By replacing your natural (clouded) lens with an artificial one, you will experience restored vision without the risk of cataracts returning in the future.

Once you have completed your cataract surgery you will be well on your way to a better lifestyle with the visual clarity you have longed for for years. Still, you will need to be mindful of giving yourself ample time to recover while following the post-operative recommendations provided by your doctor. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you recover from cataract surgery.

What to expect immediately after the surgery

Some redness, light sensitivity, tearing, tenderness and foreign body sensation is normal following cataract surgery. Any discomfort is usually relieved with two Tylenol tablets every four hours. Mucus and crusting on the eye and eyelids following surgery is not unusual. The eyelids and lashes may be gently cleaned using a clean washcloth & warm tap water. This may be done as often as needed. You may watch TV, use the computer or read. Showering is permitted, as well as washing your hair, but try not to get soap into the operated eye. It is not unusual for the vision to be blurred, foggy, hazy or for you to see black spots and colors after surgery. The vision may be clear immediately after surgery and then get somewhat hazy, cloudy or foggy a few hours later. This comes from mild swelling that occurs a few hours after surgery and usually clears significantly by the next day. If you notice a sudden decrease in vision, new flashes of light out of the operated eye, or significant pain (not just a feeling like there is an eyelash in your eye) you should call your doctor at once.

Use of Eye Drops

It’s important to use eye drops as instructed by your eye surgeon as these instructions will provided in detail before your procedure. Generally speaking you should start the drops the morning after the surgery, only use them on the eye operated on, wash your hands before using, and don’t stop unless you have been advised by your doctor. In order to apply your eye drops, tilt your head back and gently pull down the lower eyelids. Squeeze the bottle until one drop goes into the eye, close the eye, and then wipe away excess liquid. Don’t let the bottle touch your eye. When you have finished your course of eye drop treatment, you want to safely dispose of the drops.

How Long Should You Rest After Cataract Surgery?

In comparison to other notable eye surgeries, the recovery time from cataract surgery is relatively quick. While each person heals differently, many patients report drastically better vision within the first 24 hours of the procedure. Plan on taking one to three days off of work to be sure you have enough time to rest, but it is normal to resume most normal activities within a couple of days. Simple diversions like reading, watching TV, writing, and walking are okay to resume as soon as you feel up for it after your eye surgery.

Still, the healing process needs to run its course and vision may fluctuate slightly for the first few weeks before fully stabilizing. Your eye should be structurally healed from surgery in approximately one month, but it is best to allow your doctor to determine when the recovery is complete.

As you heal, there are a few things to consider in the first two weeks after surgery that will help your recovery time:

  • Do not drive until after the first day following your surgery.
  • Do not perform heavy lifting or strenuous activities.
  • To help prevent infections, do not swim or use a hot tub.
  • Do your best to not rub your eye(s) after surgery.
  • Do not wear eye makeup and consider avoiding face cream or lotion.
  • To prevent irritation of the eyes, avoid settings with higher levels of dust, wind, pollen, and dirt.
  • Wear sunglasses on bright days. This may need to continue for up to a year after cataract surgery.

While recovering in the days following surgery, it is normal to experience mild swelling or inflammation of the cornea which can result in hazy, wavy, or distorted vision. You will receive medicated eye drops to help prevent infection and reduce inflammation. It is important to note that even if you do not experience any complications or feel like your eyes are fully recovered you should still follow all directions from your doctor — including continuing your eye drops routine for the full duration.

Sleeping after Cataract Surgery

After your surgery, you will be given a protective shield for the eye that needs to be worn during your sleep, even when you nap, for a week after the surgery. This will help you avoid rubbing the eye and causing any sort of accidental injury while it is still in recovery. Aside from wearing this eye shield for a short period of time, you don’t have to make any other changes to your sleep. If you tend to sleep on your side, then you may find that it is more comfortable for you to sleep on the side where you didn’t have the surgery in order to avoid pressure on the eye as it heals. If discomfort or eye pain is affecting sleep then you should discuss with your surgeon to find the cause and a solution.

Washing Your Face and Hygiene after Cataract Surgery

Your surgery doesn’t come at the expense of your hygiene, but you need to be careful about exposing the eye to direct water for a week. You can resume activities such as washing your face the day after surgery, as long as you are careful to not touch the eye. You shouldn’t splash water directly on your face and instead, use a washcloth to carefully clean. The surgery incisions should heal within just a few days, but you should still be careful about not getting water in the eye during this recovery period. Have your eyes closed while washing your face and avoid rubbing your eye. Avoid getting any shampoo or soap into your eye.

Diet after Cataract Surgery

When your eye is healing after the procedure, your diet should be one that is also beneficial to your overall health. You want to include healthy foods, lean protein, and leafy green vegetables. Foods you should avoid are ones that are already associated with bad eye health and this includes foods high in refined carbs or sugars. These foods spike blood glucose levels and can lead to blood vessels in the eye being damaged. This will slow down your recovery time after surgery. Avoid processed foods and foods that are considered junk food.

As your eye goes through the recovery phase from cataract surgery, it is important that you do what you can to help the process go smoothly. There is a lot to consider, but by following your post-operative instructions, avoiding strenuous activity, and protecting your eye from debris and physical contact you will be well on your way to a healthy eye and much-improved vision.

If you are considering cataract surgery for yourself or a loved one, please Contact SightMD today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors to discuss your vision health at one of our convenient locations!