The final post in my three part “Expectation” series:
The Day After Surgery
1) You should arrive at your surgeon’s office at the scheduled time (usually in the morning).Please bring your drops with you.
2) Your surgeon’s staff will remove your eye shield and check your vision.Your vision may or may not be better the first day after surgery as there are many variables that can affect vision early after surgery. Most people who do not have other diseases of the eye will experience significant improvement in their vision with new glasses by one month after surgery.
3) Your surgeon (or his or her staff) will check your vision and intraocular pressure. Your surgeon will complete a brief examination of the eye. Sometimes it is necessary to lower the intraocular pressure either in the office or with additional drops.
4) You may receive a pair of “cataract glasses” (wrap around plastic sunglasses) to be used when you are outside. This is mostly for comfort as bright lights will be bothersome while the eye is healing.
5) The first week after surgery you will be swimming in drops. These drops protect the eye from infection and inflammation. Your surgeon may have removed the cataract and replaced it with a new lens, but the ball is in your court after surgery. It is critical for proper healing that you use your eyedrops as instructed and limit your activities to those approved by your surgeon.
6) You will likely have another appointment with your surgeon about a week after surgery. By this time 95% of the healing is done and your vision should be clearer (unless you have corneal astigmatism or other ocular disease such as glaucoma or macular degeneration that could limit your vision). You may be seen by the surgeon or another doctor. The purpose of this visit is primarily to confirm that the eye is healing as anticipated and to re-instruct you in the care of your eye. Most likely the doctor will allow you to reduce the number of drops you have to use.
7) Around two to four weeks after surgery your eye can be checked for new glasses. Unless you chose a “presbyopia-correcting IOL” you will need bifocals or both distance and near glasses. Some optometrists prefer to double check this refraction in another week or so to confirm that the eye is no longer changing as it heals. You can also schedule surgery on your second eye around this time if you have a significant cataract in your other eye.
8) I prefer my patients to keep the eye “clean and dry” for the first month after surgery. Essentially, this means no swimming and no gardening. It’s generally OK to take a shower and wash one’s face or hair. It is not OK to submerge the eye under water or work in the dirt.
9) As for physical activities, I instruct my patients to avoid lifting objects greater than 20 pounds for the first few weeks. For grandparents, it’s a good idea not to lift that toddler grandchild (toddlers have an uncanny way of whacking an eye after surgery when they are excited or upset). Light aerobic activity such as a Stairmaster or stationary bike is OK but I’d stay away from kick-boxing or high-impact aerobics.
10) It is usually OK to resume driving a few days after surgery (assuming you were driving prior to surgery) but this should be confirmed with the surgeon.
11) Ocular irritation and a little redness in the white part of the eye is OK. However, any significant pain, swelling, or loss of vision is not. These symptoms demand an immediate call to your surgeon.
In general the post-operative experience is uneventful other than the usual “Wow!” experience of improved vision. However, following the guidelines of your surgeon is critical to the success of the surgery.
© 2009 David Richardson, MD