A cataract is a cloudy area that forms in the lens of your eye. Cataracts can develop when proteins break down and clump together in your eye’s lens. Cataracts can eventually cause blurred vision and make it harder to see properly.
Cataract surgery is a common outpatient procedure that involves removing the lens of your eye and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL), which functions just as your natural lens does.
According to the American Optometric Association, approximately 90 percent of patients report having better vision after having cataract surgery.
After cataract surgery, it’s normal for your vision to be blurry at first as your eye recovers. The blurred vision will typically go away within a few days.
Although cataract surgery is generally a safe procedure, there is, as with any surgical procedure, the risk of complications. These complications may increase the risk of ongoing blurry vision.
In this article we’ll examine what’s normal and what isn’t regarding blurred vision after cataract surgery.
Yes, blurred vision is normal after cataract surgery. It takes time for your eyes to heal and to adjust to the new lens that has been implanted.
Not everyone will recover from cataract surgery at the same pace. Some people may have clear vision within a day after having cataract surgery. But for other people it may take several days for blurred vision to go away.
If you still have blurry vision several weeks after your cataract surgery, follow up with your ophthalmologist to rule out potential complications.
Although it’s common to experience blurred vision after cataract surgery, it usually clears up within several days. If your blurred vision continues, it could be due to a variety of factors. Let’s look at these in more detail.
Inflammation is actually a healthy immune system response to the surgical removal of your eye lens. However, it can temporarily affect your vision and cause discomfort.
Inflammation should resolve with medication as your eye heals. You can expect an improvement in your vision within a few days of surgery. Doctors prescribe medication after surgery to help the healing process.
Contact your doctor if the inflammation continues to worsen following your surgery.
Dry eyes can be a common problem after cataract surgery. Having dry eyes can cause blurred vision.
According to a
- longer-term use of antibiotic-steroid eye drops before and after surgery
- the disruption of the tear film in the eye during surgery
- decreased production of lubricants and tears in the eye due to the surgical incision
This same study found that around 64 percent of the study participants experienced mild dry eyes after cataract surgery. However, some types of cataract surgery had a higher incidence of dry eyes than others.
One of the best ways to alleviate dry eye symptoms is to use over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears. These are eye drops that help lubricate your eyes. When your eyes are lubricated, it can help alleviate blurred vision.
If you use artificial tears more than 6 times a day, or if you’re allergic to preservatives, use preservative-free eye drops instead.
Talk to your ophthalmologist if your dry eye symptoms don’t clear up, or if they get worse.
Posterior capsular opacification
Posterior capsular opacification (PCO) is also known as a “secondary cataract,” although it’s not actually a cataract. Instead, it’s an opaque film that can grow over the membrane that holds your new lens in place.
This film can cause your vision to become blurry or cloudy, much like the symptoms you experienced when you had cataracts.
PCO is fairly common after cataract surgery, and is thought to affect about 20 percent of patients.
The treatment for PCO involves a quick, painless procedure called YAG laser capsulotomy. It can be done at your ophthalmologist’s office and typically only takes about 5 minutes. This laser procedure is typically covered by insurance and Medicare.
Retinal detachment occurs when the retina breaks away from the eye, causing obstructed, blurred, or shadowy vision. Some people also experience flashes of light or floating objects in their field of vision.
This complication is rare. A 2018 review suggests that it affects 0.7 percent of people who undergo cataract surgery. People who have additional eye conditions are at an increased risk.
Retinal detachment is serious. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent vision loss. Seek medical attention right away if you experience sudden changes in vision following cataract surgery.
Cystoid macular edema
After cataract surgery, the central retina (the macula) can become swollen, causing blurred and distorted vision. This condition is known as cystoid macular edema (CME).
CME affects up to 2 percent of cataract surgery patients. This condition, which can also cause swelling, usually appears around 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.
Treatment for CME typically includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) eye drops. This condition most often resolves within a few months.
Although your vision might be blurry immediately after surgery, it should start to improve within a few days. You might also notice that colors appear brighter, since cataracts tend to cause colors to look duller.
It can take several months to heal fully, but you can speed up the healing process by following your doctor’s instructions. This includes:
- wearing a protective eye shield at night for at least a week after surgery
- using eyedrops and/or taking other medications as prescribed
- avoiding strenuous activity for a couple of weeks after surgery
- not bending over at your waist for at least a week
- not rubbing or pushing on your eye
- avoiding substances that could irritate your eyes, such as makeup, soap, and dust
- not swimming for 4 to 6 weeks
Your ophthalmologist will schedule several follow-up appointments to ensure your eyes are healing well.
Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or ophthalmologist if you have concerns. While complications of cataract surgery are usually rare, some can be serious.
Seek medical attention if you experience:
- a sudden decrease or loss of vision
- sudden flashes of light in your eye
- eye discharge
- pain that isn’t relieved by over-the-counter painkillers
- an increase in redness or swelling
Cataract surgery is generally a safe procedure with a high success rate. The vast majority of patients experience improved vision after having cataract surgery.
Blurred vision is normal in the days immediately following cataract surgery. Your vision should improve as your eyes heal. This timeframe can vary depending on the type of cataract surgery, your overall health, age, and whether you have other eye conditions.
There are some surgery complications that can cause blurred vision. If you have ongoing blurry vision or other unusual symptoms after your cataract surgery, follow up with your doctor or ophthalmologist.