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What are the do's and don'ts after cataract surgery?

A common age-related condition, cataracts occur when the eyes natural lens becomes cloudy and less transparent. While these might initially have little effect on your sight, cataracts can develop over time and may start to interfere with your ability to perform everyday tasks if left untreated. As a result of the cataract, it is common for the level and quality of vision achieved to reduce. At Optical Express, we can easily restore youthful vision through a straightforward procedure that replaces the cloudy natural lens with a premium synthetic lens. This premium lens can also help to correct long sightedness, short sightedness, astigmatism and reading vision, reducing your reliance on glasses and contact lenses.

The treatment, also referred to as cataract surgery, usually takes no more than 15 minutes to perform and is carried out under local anaesthetic, making it virtually pain free. While the procedure itself is very quick, it can take some time for your eyes to adapt to the synthetic lens used to replace your natural lens in the days or weeks following surgery. During this recovery period, it is vital that you follow your clinical care team’s instructions and look after your eyes properly, as incorrect post-surgery care could lead to a variety of short and long term issues.

When recovering from surgery, there are various things you can do to care for your eyes and ensure a successful healing process. There are also several things not to do after cataract surgery. In order to help you prepare for this, we have created an extensive guide in which we explore everything you need to know about the do’s and don'ts after cataract surgery. If you are interested in opting for treatment, have already scheduled your appointment, or are currently in the recovery process, then be sure to continue reading.

DO: Avoid activities in the early post-op phase which are strenuous for your eyes

As most people find that their vision improves quickly in the hours or days following surgery, they might feel tempted to return to work or strenuous exercise and housework too quickly. Avoiding activities that can be taxing on your eyes is a key factor in promoting the healing process, so it’s important that you take it easy in the first week following treatment.

While we usually advise patients to wait a minimum of three days before returning to work, this could vary based on how quickly your eyes are healing. Your optometrist and clinical care team will be able to make the best recommendations for you throughout your various aftercare appointments.

DO: Use your eye drops as instructed

Following surgery, your surgeon will prescribe you antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops. As these are vital in preventing infection and inflammation, as in doing so aid the healing process, it’s important that you use these drops as prescribed. In the first few weeks after treatment, eye drops will need to be administered several times daily. Further advice on their use will be given to you throughout your various follow-up appointments, in which we check whether your eyes are healing properly.

DO: Attend all your aftercare appointments

At Optical Express, your treatment doesn’t end with the surgery itself. We have designed a full aftercare programme to ensure that your vision is the best it can be. Receiving comprehensive aftercare is vital in making sure that your recovery is progressing as it should, so it’s important that you participate in each of your routine follow-up appointments as directed by your optometrist and surgeon. Appointments will be undertaken in-person and by telemedicine.

You will typically receive your first thorough assessment by our clinical care team the day after treatment, in which they will determine whether your eyes have started to heal well, with a further follow-up consultation scheduled one week, one month and three months after surgery. You should return for appointments as recommended by your experienced optometrist.

DO: Take painkillers if needed

While the treatment itself is pain free, some patients might experience a low level of discomfort in the early healing phase. This generally reduces quickly as your recovery progresses, and over-the-counter pain killers such as paracetamol can be used to relieve any discomfort and make the recovery period more comfortable.

DO: Use your protective eyewear

After surgery, it’s important to use protective eyewear in the early stages to reduce the risk of infections and in turn ensure a successful healing process. Wearing protective goggles or shields at night will prevent you from rubbing your eyes while you sleep, while wearing them in the shower will keep water, soap, and shampoo away from the eyes. Your surgeon will provide you with more in-depth directions on how to use your goggles or shields during your post-operative appointment and will be able to offer guidance on how long these will need to be used.

DON’T: Rub your eyes

Vigorous rubbing of your eyes can negatively impact the healing process for a variety of reasons and is therefore one of the things not to do after cataract surgery. Rubbing can lead to bacteria entering the eye, for example, which could, in turn, lead to infections. Besides this, applying pressure to the eye through extensive rubbing can damage the outer window of the eye known as the cornea, and is bad for the healing process. While your eyes might feel slightly uncomfortable in the early stages after cataract surgery, it’s important that you avoid rubbing and touching your eyes so as to allow them to recover as quickly as possible.

DON’T: Drive on the same day

Immediately after your treatment is performed, all strenuous activity needs to be avoided, meaning that you will be unable to drive on the day of surgery. We recommend arranging transport home beforehand, preferably by a friend or a family member as they will be able to see you inside and make sure that you’re comfortable once you are home.

The length of time you need to wait before starting to drive again depends on a number of factors. As vision improves quickly, you will likely be able to start driving in the days following surgery. Your optometrist will be able to advise on this during your first aftercare appointment.

DON’T: Wear eye make-up for the first 7 days

Wearing eye make-up is also part of the list of things not to do after cataract surgery in order to aid the healing process. Even when you are very careful, particles from make-up can still cause irritation and increase the chance of infections during the recovery period, so it is recommended not to wear any for at least the first seven days after treatment. Your clinical care team will be able to provide more guidance on when it is safe to resume your make-up regimen during the early follow-up appointments.

DON’T: Swim, use hot tubs, or go to a sauna

Your eyes can be more susceptible to infections as they recover from surgery, so it’s vital that you minimise the risk as much as possible. One way in which you can do this is by avoiding swimming pools, hot tubs, and saunas in the initial weeks after treatment, as water can carry bacteria that are harmful to the eyes. Swimming is also discouraged as it counts as strenuous activity, which should be avoided in the days following treatment.

DON’T: Expose your eyes to irritants such as dust and dirt

As your eyes will be more sensitive in their state of healing, it’s important to avoid all potential irritants in order to ensure a comfortable recovery process. These can include airborne allergens such as dust and pollen, as well as dirt, smoke, wind, and sunlight. Because of this, activities such as dusting and gardening are generally discouraged in the days following treatment. If you cannot avoid these irritants completely, it is advised to wear eye protection.

If you follow your clinical care team’s instructions on the do’s and don’ts after cataract surgery, your recovery should be both comfortable and quick, with a vast majority of people seeing results and returning to normal day-to-day activities anywhere between 24 hours to 2 weeks after treatment. By attending regular aftercare appointments as recommended by your optometrist, we can ensure your recovery is progressing as it should and your vision is the best it can be.

Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed in the UK and is considered to be one of the safest surgical procedures available, as the risk of serious complications is very low. Millions of people are already enjoying its life-changing benefits, so it’s time to take the first step towards improved vision and book your free consultation at Optical Express now. With the vast majority of people being suitable candidates for treatment, there is a good chance you will be too. Take the next step to seeing the world more clearly and book your free consultation today.

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