Cataract Surgery Recovery: What Every Patient Should Know

Jun 10, 2022
 – Besser Eye Care Team
  • Cataracts

Recovery from cataract surgery is safe and swift. Still, there are things patients should be aware of. Get the details on exactly what to expect post surgery.

Cataract surgery is among the most effective surgical procedures, with a success rate close to 98%.

While the surgery is safe and reliable, many patients wonder whether there might be any visual problems after cataract surgery. They may ask:

  • How long does it take for vision to clear after cataract surgery?

  • Is it common to have blurred vision after cataract surgery?

  • When is it safe to resume normal day-to-day activities?

  • Does removing cataracts improve vision?

Different people have different concerns, but there are a few things every patient considering cataract surgery should know about the days, weeks, and months following the procedure.

How long is the cataract surgery healing time?

Recovery time for cataract surgery is short. Most patients will notice improved vision immediately after surgery.

Recovery time varies from patient to patient. Factors such as age, the severity of cataracts, and general health can impact the time it takes to heal from cataract surgery.

In general, most patients can expect a “full recovery,” where they can resume normal activities, in around three to four weeks.

How long does it take vision to clear after cataract surgery?

In most cases, vision improves immediately after surgery, although pupils may remain dilated for 1-2 days.

As the eyes heal and adjust, some patients may experience blurry vision. Patients usually experience clear vision the day following the surgery. However, for some people vision can take several days to return to normal.

Patients should prepare for other mild side effects as their vision clears after cataract surgery. These effects may include light irritation, foreign body sensation, and heightened sensitivity to light.

It is not common to have blurred vision for more than a few days after cataract surgery. If blurred vision persists, contact your eye doctor immediately.

What to expect immediately after surgery?

The procedure itself is quick and painless. It takes around 10 to 15 minutes, and most patients in our clinic can go home soon after the intervention with no patches or eye coverage. Patients should arrange for someone to pick them up from the surgery center, as it is unsafe to drive immediately after cataract surgery.

Following the operation, the ophthalmologist will give the patient a pair of dark glasses. Pupils will remain dilated for a couple of days after surgery. The glasses shield the patient's eyes and provide comfort as pupils return to normal. Depending on the severity of the cataract, sensitivity to light can persist after surgery, and doctors may recommend continuing to wear sunglasses on bright days.

Woman experiencing blurred vision after cataract surgery

There may be post-surgery inflammation, but there usually won’t be any pain following the operation. In most cases, patients can resume their normal diet and take oral medications right away.

In our office, Dr. Besser or a staff member will call to check up on the patient and make sure they’re doing well. If you experience acute pain or other troubling symptoms before the follow-up call, contact your doctor immediately.

What to expect in the weeks after surgery

Patients will receive eye drops to apply in the weeks following cataract surgery. Eye drops prevent the risk of infection, eye pressure, and inflammation. Your doctor will instruct you on how and when to use the drops for maximum relief.

Post-surgery care will include several follow-up visits to the eye doctor. In our office, we schedule follow-ups a day, a week, and a month after surgery. This is meant to monitor the patient’s progress and ensure they are on a steady path toward recovery.

In the weeks after surgery patients can begin to bring back day-to-day activities to their routine. While it’s tempting to rush back to normal activities, we recommend patients reintroduce activities with caution.

More relaxed activities such as reading and watching tv are preferred. Activities that can pose a risk to the eyes should be avoided for the duration of the recovery period.

Is exercise okay after surgery?

Immediately after cataract surgery, patients should avoid physical activities. However, in the weeks after the procedure, they can begin to reintroduce certain activities. The time frame to bring back activities will vary depending on the patient and the intensity of the exercise.

Typically patients can resume non-strenuous exercise a week after surgery. This includes walking, gentle stretching, and light activities that do not involve weight over 15 pounds.

Light exercise after cataract surgery

Patients should abstain from strenuous exercise until they have completed a full recovery three to four weeks after surgery. This means avoiding activities such as weight lifting, running, active sports, and yoga. When beginning more intense activities, patients should consider wearing protective eyewear to shield the operated eye.

If you have questions about when you can reintroduce a specific activity, talk to your eye doctor for a more precise estimate.

Should water be avoided?

Patients should avoid exposing their eyes to water in the weeks after cataract removal. Patients may consider using a washcloth to clean their face to minimize the risk of water damage. When doing so, apply the cloth gently to avoid rubbing or dripping water into the eyes.

Showers and shampoo are okay as long as the patient takes precautions to prevent water from entering their eye. However, patients should avoid swimming pools and jacuzzis in the one to two weeks following cataract surgery.

When to contact an eye doctor

Almost all cataract surgeries have swift, safe, and pain-free recoveries. However, in rare instances, patients need to contact their ophthalmologist due to post-surgery pain or discomfort.

Patients should contact their eye doctor immediately if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Vision fails to improve or gets worse

  • New onset of floaters or flashing lights

  • Redness, pain, discharge, or “dark areas” in peripheral vision


If you're in the greater Los Angeles area and would like to learn more about cataract surgery, refractive surgery, or LASIK procedure, please contact Dr. Besser's office to schedule an appointment.

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