Did you know that over 180,000 cataract operations are performed every year in Australia? That’s one every half an hour. So, if you’re recovering from surgery, you are not alone. This post addresses what you can expect in the days and weeks following your procedure and what you can do to ensure a healthy recovery.
1. Take a load off
Modern day cataract surgery is a microsurgery procedure and rarely involves any stitches. It is quick and painless due to the light sedation provided. But it is still an invasive procedure and requires a little TLC to speed your recovery. If you have taken a couple of days off work, now is not the time to start that renovation project at home or to get stuck into the garden. Gentle exercise, such as walking, is perfectly fine, but avoid strenuous workouts at the gym, power yoga or any contact sports for the first few weeks. Your eye is still healing and more prone to injury, even though it will usually feel pretty good from the day after surgery.
2. Get those eye drops in
There are a number of very important eye drops prescribed post-surgery and they are vital to the safe and speedy recovery of your eyes.
- Antibiotics: These will protect your eye from any nasty bacteria that could otherwise try to enter your eye at the incision site.
- Steroids: These will calm down the natural inflammation associated with any injury to the eye, including surgery. Steroid drops help the eyes feel calm and comfortable.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs): These also protect parts of the eye from redness and pain by blocking different pathways to inflammation.
- Artificial tears: These will lubricate and hydrate your eyes, leading to increased comfort and clearer, more consistent vision.
These drops need to be administered several times per day for the first few weeks after surgery exactly according to your doctor’s instructions. It is very important that they make it into your eye. It is not uncommon for eye drops to land on the eyelids or cheeks and completely miss their mark! Ideally, have a family member assist you if there is any doubt. There are also eye drop dispensers available from pharmacies, which some patients find useful. It is also very important during this time not to rub your eyes.
3. Expect a difference between eyes
It’s amazing how many patients report a difference in the healing response between the two eyes after the exact same procedure! Why does this happen? It could be due to a number of factors:
- The cataract may be more advanced in one eye comparedto the other, and necessitate a longer time inside the eye and more manipulation, leading to a slightly slower recovery or more awareness of the eye during healing.
- The site of the surgery wound may lie closer to your nerves in one eye compared to the other, making it more sensitive during recovery.
- Even the disinfecting of the skin around the eyes prior to surgery can have an impact on the tear film and how quickly it returns to normal after surgery.
Interestingly, the eye is not the only part of the body where this difference in healing can occur. Patients recovering from knee or hip surgery often report a marked difference in the symptoms between one side and the other, even though they have effectively had the same procedure on each side. If you know to expect this it is less of a worry, but always stay alert to the signs and symptoms of a complication. If your eye is red or sore or your vision becomes blurry, it’s time to contact your surgeon straight away, even if you are not due for a follow up appointment for a while.
4. Stay out of the pool
Even the cleanest swimming pools carry bacteria and other bugs that can threaten the health of your eyes, especially in the vulnerable stages after a procedure. Goggles do not provide adequate protection either, so stick to your surgeon’s recommendations and give the pool a miss for the first few weeks after surgery.
5. Keep your optometrist in the loop
Your need for glasses and your dependence on them will generally be less after surgery so it’s helpful to talk to your optometrist as to the best way to manage your glasses in between each eye surgery. Remember it takes about 6 weeks from surgery for your glasses prescription to stabilise. Avoid using ready-made glasses as these will not correct your two eyes equally and can cause eye strain and headaches.
Topics: cataract surgery