Many patients who go into cataract surgery for the first time are nervous. Among other anxieties, they wonder how long does it take for their vision to clear up after cataract surgery.
Yes, someone’s vision will seem very clear following the surgery. This is because it’s so much better once the clouded natural lens of the eye has been replaced by a clear synthetic lens. The best vision probably won’t show up for a while, though.
This article will discuss what cataract surgery accomplishes for most patients and how long complete vision restoration takes.
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. It’s not unlike looking through a pair of clear eyeglasses that have fogged over or accumulated a lot of dirt and oil on the surface. Cataracts, in other words, obscure your vision.
Symptoms of cataracts include:
- Blurred vision
- Seeing double
- Greater sensitivity to light
- Difficulty seeing at night or needing more light to read
- Seeing colors as dull or having a yellow tint
There are three types of cataracts: posterior subcapsular, nuclear sclerotic, and cortical. Each has a different set of causes (age, health condition, inheritance, etc.) and affects different parts of the eye’s lens.
Each type also affects vision—and reduction in vision—in different ways, some more gradual than others. However, when it comes time to replace the lens, in all cases, the entire lens is removed.
What Happens In Cataract Surgery?
Patients spend about 2-4 hours in pre-op and surgery and another 2 hours or so resting afterward—mostly sleeping off the light medication that kept them calm during the procedure.
Many patients are driven home by friends or family immediately after the surgery and recover there.
Preparing for cataract surgery is like most other day surgeries. There are some minor dietary restrictions in the hours leading up to the procedure. You’ll be given the calming medication through an IV, which will need to be set up.
Before the surgery starts, your eye is numbed. Then the doctor makes an incision to remove the clouded cataract lens and replace it with the new synthetic lens. Next, she stitches the incision and bandages the eye.
How Long Does It Take for Vision to Clear After Cataract Surgery? The Short Term
This is what makes so many people exclaim about how amazed they were by the results of successful cataract surgery (as most are) and talk about it for weeks, describing how much clearer their vision became afterward.
In the Hours Following Surgery
The post-surgery rejoicing is a combination of the contrast with how clouded your vision was before the surgery and the crystal clear new lens that was implanted.
So, enjoy the terrific vision—but don’t let it distract you from the care you need to give your still-healing eye for as long as the doctor feels necessary.
The new lens is surrounded by tissue that was cut, stretched, and sutured, so the healing could take up to a few months. Be sure to give your eye lots of rest, take your prescribed medications, and protect it as needed and instructed by the doctor.
Expect to have a follow-up visit to your doctor scheduled the day after the surgery, and perhaps another a week later.
Meanwhile, taking some basic precautions can ensure your cataract surgery is successful and complication-free. As we say in an earlier blog article:
- Avoid rubbing your eyes.
- Do not bend at the waist or pick up heavy objects.
- Avoid splashing water directly into your eyes, especially when showering.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity for at least three weeks.
- Wear dark, ultraviolet protective sunglasses when outdoors.
- Avoid swimming for one week.
You also might experience some normal symptoms during the days following the procedure. These are normal and include:
- a gritty or sensitive feeling in the eyes
- watery eyes.
- double vision or blurriness.
Rare complications also can occur that might indicate something more serious, so let your Ophthalmologist know if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Loss of vision or worsening of vision
- Light flashes or floating spots in the eyes
- Ongoing pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Persistent coughing or sneezing
Be on the lookout for any unusual symptoms—in the days following the surgery or farther down the road. This is especially true if you have other health conditions, such as diabetes, or are an older adult.
How Long Does It Take for the Eye to Heal Fully After Cataract Surgery? The Longer Term
The consensus seems to be that it takes 1-3 months. So you should expect your eyes to have stabilized 2-4 months after the surgery. You’ll probably have another Ophthalmologist appointment around that time.
That’s when you should be ready to have your eyes tested and be given a new glasses prescription if needed.
What Will Happen With My Eyes in the Future?
If this was your first cataract surgery and another cataract forms (or is already forming) in the other eye, you’ll need to wait at least a few weeks to have that surgery. If it’s not bothering you, though, try to wait longer, until it starts to bother you.
Can a Cataract Grow Back in the Synthetic Lens?
Cataracts don’t grow back in artificial lenses, However, something called a “secondary cataract” can develop roughly 4-6 months following the surgery.
This isn’t an actual cataract, but rather a problem with the capsule, which is a cellophane-like outer lining that holds both the natural and replacement lenses.
“During cataract surgery, the natural lens in the eye is removed, but great care is taken to keep the capsule in place to hold the replacement artificial (intraocular) lens.”
Sometimes, months after the surgery, the posterior capsule (by this point behind the implanted intraocular lens) becomes cloudy just as the natural lens did to form the cataract.
This results in some loss of vision and your ophthalmologist needs to perform a posterior capsulotomy using a special laser tool to reduce the obstruction. This is a quick office procedure that usually results in pronounced vision improvement.
Your Best Vision In a Long Time
A year after your cataract surgery, you’re probably remembering when you asked yourself, “How long does it take for vision to clear up after cataract surgery?” Now you know the answer.