Contributed and reviewed by: Dr Audrey Looi (Medical Director at Ava Eye Clinic)
Recap: What is Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is recommended when vision is affected by degenerative changes within the aging eye lens. This is most commonly seen in those over the age of 60 years. However, some younger patients may develop cataract earlier in life and require the surgery earlier. Modern cataract surgery involves the removal of the eye lens through tiny incisions on the cornea. This is followed by implantation of a permanent intraocular lens that will take the place of the original eye lens. With precise calculations done pre-operatively and good choice of lens implant, one can look forward to clearer vision after surgery, often times with no further need or minimal need for glasses.
Read more: What To Expect During Cataract Surgery?
Post Operative Care
Post-operative care is important after cataract surgery. The following are important care steps to keep in mind:
- Head elevation
It is important to avoid any head down posture the first week after cataract surgery. Rare complications such as post-operative haemorrhage may be encountered with prolonged high venous pressure associated with such postures.
- Avoidance of exercise and other strenuous activities
Exercise and strenuous activities including yoga with head-down postures are to be avoided as higher venous pressure associated with these activities may lead to post-operative haemorrhage and other complications. Care must also be taken not to exert whilst in the bathroom. It is better to resume light exercise at the earliest 2 weeks after surgery.
- Avoidance of bath water/ shampoo
The eye must be kept very clean, especially in the first week after surgery. Sterile dressing sets will be provided and instruction given on how to use these to keep the eye and surrounding area clean. The aim is to prevent infection which can negatively impact on the final outcome.
For those who are not confident of keeping shampoo out of the eye, a few visits to the hair salon during the first week may be a better option to consider.
- Avoidance of eye rubbing
A transparent eye shield will be provided to help patients avoid any accidental eye rubbing. This shield should be applied before sleep during the first week after surgery.
- Avoidance of eye make-up
Ladies must take care to avoid eye make-up for the first month after cataract surgery in order to avoid infection. Once the post-operative eye drop medications are stopped at the one month review, it will be safe to resume eye make-up.
- Post-operative medications
Antibiotic and steroid eyedrop medications will be provided to help avoid infection and calm the eye down after the surgery. These eyedrops are to be applied every 3 hours in the first few week or so before reducing the frequency for the rest of the month after surgery. Usually, the eyedrops need only be applied for a month although this might need to be extended in some cases.
Post Operative Reviews
You will be asked to come for a post-operative review the day after your surgery to assess the wounds and ensure that the eye pressure is not elevated. This will be followed by a second review a few days later to ensure that there is no infection. Usually, the eye will have mostly recovered from the surgery and will require just another 3 weeks more of the eyedrop medications.
Your refraction or spectacle power will be assessed at about 1 month after surgery. Usually, one can look forward to minimal or negligible residual spectacle power. And in most cases, there is no further or minimal reliance on spectacles after cataract surgery.
Will I need to take any time off work?
Depending on the nature of their work, patients usually take 2 to 4 weeks of medical (hospital) leave after cataract surgery. If bilateral cataract surgery is planned, the second eye operation is often scheduled the following week, which would extend the leave by another week. Most office workers can potentially head back to work in 2-3 weeks’ time. A brief discussion with Dr Looi will help clarify any other leave queries.
Will I be in pain?
Cataract surgery is not associated with significant post-operative pain. In fact, most patients are pleasantly surprised at the lack of pain and the quick improvement in vision. At the very most, the odd patient might take a dose of Panadol for any feeling of dull ache after the surgery.
Will there be any Bruising or Swelling?
There is usually no bruise or eyelid swelling after cataract surgery because surgery is performed through the cornea which is devoid of blood vessels. The odd case of bruising around the eye may be seen if injection anesthesia was provided instead of eyedrop anesthesia. On the rare occasion, there may be some eye redness noted in the white of the eye after cataract surgery. This is generally harmless and will fade away after a week or so.
How long will it take for my vision to stabilise after cataract surgery?
The targeted outcome is frequently seen even as soon as on the first day after surgery. However, as the surgical wounds are hydrated during surgery to make them watertight, it takes a few more days for the wounds to lose most of the hydration and another few more weeks for the spectacle power to stabilize. The final spectacle power is usually checked at the one month review.
For those who have cataract surgeries timed a week apart, the second post-operative review is helpful in further refining the choice of intraocular lens for the second eye.
Any further queries about targeted outcome and choice of intraocular lens is best clarified with Dr Looi in person.
In general, cataract surgery is very well tolerated and care after surgery is straightforward. Our team will take care to provide care instructions and respond to any queries throughout the recovery period.