Cataract surgery is a straightforward, short procedure and usually takes between 10 and 15 minutes per eye. Patients are normally treated under local anaesthetic eye drops. This means patients are awake but cannot feel any pain.
It is almost always a ‘day case surgery’, with no overnight stay at the hospital required.
Vision Straight After Cataract Surgery
Most patients are back to normal activities the next day. Straight after surgery, patients will usually see in soft focus. The following day vision should be clearer. Some patients see the improvement in several hours, though most take 24-48 hours. It can occasionally take 1-2 weeks for vision to settle while the eye adapts to the new intraocular lens implant (IOL).
If a patient has clear distance vision in both eyes using standard monofocal implants (the type offered in NHS cataract surgery), reading glasses are normally required afterwards.
A monovision lens combination may be used, where the implant for one eye is chosen so that distance vision is clear (but near vision blurred), and the other IOL selected to leave the second eye slightly short-sighted (with blurred distance vision). This combination is known as monovision, and can be very effective in giving clear far and close vision for most activities.
Patients who choose to have multifocal premium lens implants (or standard IOLs to give monovision), glasses may still be required for some tasks. Multifocal or monovision IOLs are not usually offered by the NHS and are only available to patients choosing to pay for private cataract surgery.
Driving After Cataract Surgery
Each patient is different and therefore it’s difficult to say when exactly a patient can drive after surgery. When both eyes are being treated in one surgery sitting, or when only one eye is being treated, patients can normally start driving 2 days after surgery.
Going Back to Work After Cataract Surgery
The length of time we recommend a patient takes off of work depends upon the patient’s occupation. Most people with office-based occupations resume work within a few days. Those who work in a dusty environment, for example a builder’s site, may need to take a week off work.
Activities to Avoid After Cataract Surgery
Common sense should be applied to the activities a patient chooses to take part in post surgery. As a general guide for a safe and quick recovery from cataract surgery, we recommend you follow these steps:
- Don’t drive on the first day, and make sure your vision is adequate for driving. You should be able to read a number plate at a distance of 20 metres.
- On the day following surgery patients are able to bathe – either in a bath or shower, and use a computer for short periods of time.
- To reduce the risk of acquiring an infection, please avoid using a hot tub, sauna or swimming during the first 7 days.
- Don’t do heavy lifting or other strenuous activities for several weeks.
- Immediately after your cataract surgery, avoid bending over to prevent putting undue pressure on your eye.
- Avoid situations that could lead you to sneeze or vomit after surgery.
- Avoid unclean environments where you would be exposed to grime or dust during the first month.
- Don’t rub your eyes.
We advise patients refrain from sporting activities for three to four weeks. Long and short-haul flights are fine the day after surgery for passengers. Pilots will need to go through the necessary licensing checks before flying resumes. Find out more about cataract surgery here.