Recovery time is one of the biggest concerns people have about their upcoming cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is a necessary procedure to restore vision in the event of a clouded lens, but it’s still understandable to wonder how long it will take for your eye to heal. You might be wondering any of the following:
- How long until I can drive again?
- Will I have to wear eye protection for cataract surgery?
- Will I have to miss work?
- How long until my vision is restored to where it was before my cataract?
The answers are complicated, and recovery time varies from patient to patient. Complete healing of the eye(s) after cataract surgery can take up to three months, but most people experience clear vision in a matter of days.
This is just one of the reasons why cataract surgery has life-changing potential for those in need of a solution. Here’s an overview of the factors that contribute to recovery time, as well as the answers to some other common questions about cataract surgery, courtesy of Dr. Sambursky and his team.
What Is A Cataract?
The lenses in our eyes are like tiny cameras — they refract light and adjust focus to allow us to see clearly both near and far away. These lenses are made up of a precise arrangement of water and proteins, so perfectly organized that the lens appears completely transparent in the eye.
As we age, however, the eye’s lens ages also. These proteins begin to move from their precise arrangement and form clumps that blur the lens.
At first, cataracts are barely noticeable, but over time they can cause vision to become cloudy and obscured to the point where clear vision is no longer possible.
By age 65, 90% percent of adults will have a cataract. Many of these cases will not require surgery because they are relatively minor, but some will.
What Is Cataract Surgery?
Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the United States, with approximately 3.8 million cataract procedures being performed every year.
Cataract surgery is the process of removing the old, clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. This new implant is called an intraocular device (IOL). There are standard IOLs, which restore vision without enhancing it, and premium IOLs, which make surgery more expensive but offer benefits like a better vision over a long distance and enhanced night vision.
What Happens During Cataract Surgery?
If you’re considering cataract surgery, the first thing you’ll want to know about is the experience. What’s going to happen on the day of your cataract treatment?
The first thing you need to know is that the average surgery takes only 15 minutes. You’ll receive numbing eye drops (or an anesthetic injection) to ensure that you don’t feel anything beyond some mild pressure during the surgery, and it will be over before you know it.
Using a surgical device or a laser, slits in the cornea are cut before a process called phacoemulsification breaks up the cataract and allows it to be removed from the eye.
After the lens is removed, an IOL (folded) is fed through the opening in the cornea into the place where the lens was previously. Within the eye, the IOL opens up. The opening(s) in the cornea typically heals without stitches or sutures.
After the surgery is over, your surgeon will place a bandage or shield over the eye, and then healing can begin.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Cataract Surgery?
It can take between one and three months to fully heal from cataract surgery.
Immediately after your cataract surgery, you’ll be bandaged until you arrive home. Typically, you’ll have to wear a bandage or eye shield at night for as long as a week to protect your eye while asleep.
You may be groggy after surgery, depending on the medications used during the procedure. You may also have to take post-op medications for any pain or swelling you may experience. This will be a decision made by your surgeon based on your unique needs after your cataract surgery.
How Long Until I Can Drive Again?
You won’t be able to drive home after your cataract treatment, so you’ll have to have someone there to pick you up after surgery.
You should be able to drive within 24 hours after surgery is finished, as long as you can see clearly and have no issues with depth perception.
How Long Does It Take to See Clearly After Cataract Surgery?
The time it takes for fully clear vision after cataract surgery varies between patients. Some see their full range of vision return in a single day. Most commonly, you’ll be seeing clearly in one or two days. Some patients don’t have their full vision back for a few days to a week, and in rare cases, it can take as long as a month to regain total visual acuity.
Is Cataract Surgery Right for Me?
If you experience cataracts that obstruct your vision, you should make an appointment with a qualified ophthalmologist as soon as possible. You have several options, depending on the severity of your condition, but in most cases, cataract surgery is possible and a great option for you.
Dr. Sambursky and his team are ready to make sure you’re equipped with everything you need to make an informed choice when it comes to having cataract surgery. We’ll sit down with you and talk you through all your options, from surgical technology to IOLs and everything in between.