How Long Is the Recovery from Cataract Surgery?

Reviewed by: Jason Jacobs, M.D. and Leslie Doctor, M.D.

Question: My mother and father both had cataracts in their early 60’s. They both did pretty well and I remember them driving and golfing and really being able to do pretty much everything after their cataract surgery. I am 54 years old been told that I have cataracts. I am a salesman for a roofing company and I drive all over my territory. I am noticing that I am having more and more problem seeing the signs and at night I can’t really take the glare from headlights. I have to work but I think I might need to have the cataracts removed soon and I am worried about how long I will be out of work and not able to drive. How long is the recovery and what else might I not be able to do after the surgery and for how long?

Answer: Cataract surgery today is really very advanced and quite “patient friendly”. First, if you are in generally good health it is most likely that your cataract operation will be performed in an ambulatory surgery center. These eye surgery facilities are comfortable and efficient and your entire cataract surgery procedure should take only 2-3 hours from the time you check in until the time you check out. Second, advanced cataract surgery is most often performed with “topical eye drop anesthesia”-that is, for most patients the only anesthesia required are some eye drops along with a tablet to help you relax. Thus, there is really minimal if any “recovery” from the anesthesia used. You are usually feeling “back to normal” by the end of the day of your surgery or certainly by the next morning. Third, with the advanced cataract surgery technique of “small incision phacoemulsification” there is only a need to create a tiny incision-often just a few millimeters-through which the cataract is removed and the intraocular lens is implanted. This tiny incision is so small so as not to require any “stitches” or sutures in many cases. Thus the wound healing is very quick. Finally, depending on the type of lens implant that is used it is highly likely that your distance vision will be dramatically improved within 24 hours. In fact many patients actually are comfortable driving the next day after their cataract operation. If you have a multifocal or accommodating lens implant to correct both your distance and near vision, it might take a bit longer to appreciate the full clarity of the near vision correction. So, it is pretty likely that you will be back to work in a few days and depending on your cataract surgeon’s instructions, you should be able to resume all of your normal activities with a couple of days.

The information that has been provided here is intended to give patients a basic understanding of the recovery after Cataract Surgery. It is possible that your individual experience might be different. None of the information provided here is meant to be a substitute for or replace your eye doctor's consultation nor does it replace the need for you to consult with your Cataract Surgeon about specific details of Cataract Surgery and Intraocular Lens (IOL) Implantation.

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