Cataract Surgery: What to Expect Before, During and After

Person with a healthy eye and an unhealthy eye

After reading our blog post about how to prepare for laser cataract surgery, you’ll learn:

  • The best way to prepare for your upcoming surgery
  • What you can expect to experience during your surgery
  • How to take care of yourself afterward to help aid a successful recovery period

Cataract surgery is common, safe, and effective. Still, it helps to know what to expect before, during, and after the procedure so you can take part in the effort of completing a successful surgery and recovery period. To that effect, check out our guide on what to expect to see how you can take appropriate preparations at every step.

What to Expect Before Laser Cataract Surgery

Before cataract surgery is even contemplated, you’ll need to have your eyes examined to determine if you’re a candidate for the surgery. You’ll likely be considered a candidate if you’re dealing with a variety of optical issues:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Difficulties driving, especially at night
  • Dimmed colors
  • Light sensitivity
  • New and consistent issues reading or watching television

If you’re experiencing these issues, your eye doctor will work with you to determine the size of your cataract, any previous eye procedures, and your current state of health. All play a factor in being considered a candidate for this surgery, and it’s possible that your doctor may offer alternatives due to your specific circumstances.

Once it’s determined you’re a candidate for the procedure, you’ll begin to schedule some preparatory appointments and receive instructions on what you need to do in the period immediately before the surgery. For instance, you’ll likely have an appointment scheduled for about a week before the cataract surgery for the doctor to conduct an ultrasound of your eye. The ultrasound gives your doctor the precise size and shape of your eye. This, in turn, helps your doctor determine what type of lens implant you’ll receive.

A day or two before the surgery, you may receive a prescription for antibiotic eye drops. These should be used according to your doctor’s instructions and help ensure there aren’t any lingering bacteria in the eye before surgery.

Starting at about 12 hours before your surgery begins, you’ll need to avoid any food or drink. You may also be asked not to take any medication during this time. It’s important to let your doctor know about any and all medications you take, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicine, so they can give you the soundest medical advice.

Additionally, you won’t be able to drive yourself home after your surgery. So, you’ll need to find a trusted friend or family member to take you to your surgical appointment and then drive you home afterward. You should attempt to clear your schedule for at least a day after the surgery and preferably up to a week.

What to Expect During Laser Cataract Surgery

Laser cataract surgery is typically a quick, outpatient procedure. Most surgeries take less than an hour. Unless it’s necessary, you’ll only receive a local anesthetic to numb the eye and the area surrounding it. To reduce anxiety and make it easier to relax, you may also receive a sedative. That means you’ll be awake, though tired and groggy, throughout the procedure. The procedure is painless, and you should only experience mild discomfort, at worst, during it.

During the surgery, your eye surgeon will remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear artificial one. Your eye surgeon has several options to remove the cataract. They may use an ultrasound probe that uses sound waves to break up the lens. This makes it easy for the broken-up cataract to be removed with a tiny suction tube.

If there are complications with your cataract, your surgeon may instead use an incision to remove the lens from your eye. This will often require stitches to close the incision once the surgeon inserts the new artificial lens. Though this method requires a larger incision and stitches than the ultrasound method, it is still a safe and effective procedure.

Once the cataract is removed, your surgeon will insert the new artificial lens. Depending on your specific situation and the size and shape of your eye, they’ll have several types of artificial lenses to choose from:

  • Accommodating-focus monofocal
  • Astigmatism correction lens
  • Fixed-focus monofocal
  • Multifocal

After the new artificial lens is placed on your eye, the surgeon will have a little cleanup to finish the procedure. You should experience improved vision almost immediately.

What to Expect After Laser Cataract Surgery

While your vision should improve almost immediately after the surgery is complete, your body will still need some time to heal and adjust to the new lens. Some patients experience blurriness at first, but that will soon fade. Additionally, colors may seem brighter due to seeing the world through a clear lens.

Many patients experience itchy eyes during this recovery period. You should refrain from rubbing your eyes or touching them unnecessarily. To help prevent this, your doctor may recommend an eye patch or shield for a couple of days after your surgery.

You’ll also be given eye drops and other medication to aid in the healing of your eye and prevent infection. Make sure to follow your doctor’s exact instructions regarding the use of eye drops and medications.

During the immediate period after your surgery, you’ll need to take time to rest. Take at least a day off and avoid staring at screens for a couple of days. You should avoid swimming or heaving straining for at least a week after the surgery. Your doctor may have more specific instructions depending on your unique circumstances.

There will be multiple follow-up appointments after your surgery. The first will be only a day or two after the procedure, with the next few coming in the following weeks and months. During these appointments, it’s important to let your doctor know if you’re experiencing any complications:

  • Eye redness that increases in intensity
  • Loss of vision
  • Pain that isn’t remedied by over-the-counter pain medication
  • Seeing flashing lights or new “floaters”
  • Swollen eyelids

A significant percentage of patients are fully healed within a few days of the cataract surgery. Some, though, may need up to eight weeks to fully recover. If you fall into the latter category, you should still experience progressive improvement in your eyesight during recovery. If you don’t, make sure to let your doctor know during your follow-up appointments.

If you have cataracts in both eyes, your doctor may only perform the surgery on one eye to see how your body responds and heals before scheduling and performing surgery on the second eye. If that’s the case, you should also expect to schedule the second surgery during your recovery period.

What to Expect with The Cataract Surgeons

The Cataract Surgeons are one of the country’s premier eye surgery institutes. Located in and around Shreveport, LA, we work with patients from around the country to improve their eyesight through various methods, including cutting-edge surgical procedures.

To schedule an eye examination and see how we can help improve your vision, request an appointment through our online portal. You can also take a self-test to see if you may be a potential candidate for cataract surgery.


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