Cataract surgery normally lasts less than an hour. You may notice an immediate improvement in your vision, but it will take time for the results to stabilize and most patients go through an adjustment period while their brains get used to the lens. If you need glasses or contacts before cataract surgery, cataract surgery may give you freedom from prescription lenses, or you may still need glasses for certain activities, depending on factors such as the type of artificial intraocular lens (IOL) that you and your cataract surgeon choose.
During cataract surgery, your clouded natural lens is replaced with an artificial IOL. Once the IOL is in place, it is permanent. You won’t feel it or do anything special to take care of it. For most patients, the surgery is an outpatient procedure, sometimes referred to as “day surgery”. General anesthesia is not needed, so you will be awake, but you may be given a sedative that can make you groggy. Local anesthetic numbs the area.
The procedure itself takes less than an hour. Then you will rest for about an hour, in a recovery room, with your eye covered.
Immediately After Surgery
You may still feel groggy when it’s time to go home. Even if you feel fine, you will need a driver. You will not be able to drive for 24 hours.
You may feel some discomfort such as a gritty feeling, stinging, or itching in your eye. You must not rub your eye.
Your vision will probably be blurry, but you may notice immediate improvement over your pre-surgical vision. Many patients experience vastly improved vision within the first 24 hours of surgery and most within a few days. You may notice that the world appears more colorful now that you no longer have a yellow or brown-tinged coating on your lens. You may also see some glare and halos at this point.
You will be given antibiotic drops and possibly other medications to take. You will also need to wear a protective shield while you sleep and need to refrain from sleeping on the same side as the eye that had the procedure.
You will go in for a follow-up appointment the day after surgery.
Recovery and Adjusting to You New Lens
The day after surgery, you can return to light activities, but you need to wait at least a week before doing anything strenuous. The discomfort should go away within a few days. It can take one to two months for your eyes to fully heal.
Your brain, on the other hand, may take longer to adjust to working with the new lens or lenses. Everyone is different. It can take anywhere from one to six months to achieve the best vision from your new lenses. You can help you brain adjust by challenging your vision. Engage in activities that require you to use your full range of vision, from very near to far, and those which require switching back and forth.
Learn more about what you can expect from cataract surgery by talking to your ophthalmologist. Search this directory for a list of ophthalmologists near you.