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Cataract surgery is the most common eye surgery. It’s safe and effective, and recovery is generally smooth and uncomplicated. You can usually return to most activities within several days.

You can do many things to help your healing process that we’ll explain below. Since each person is different, it’s always best to talk with your doctor about your specific recovery schedule and instructions.

The surgery takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour. After the surgery, your doctor will explain how you can protect your eye during recovery. They’ll give you eye drops for healing. You may have to wear special glasses, too.

Your doctor will numb your eye before the surgery. While you might have discomfort, severe pain isn’t common.

To help you heal:

  • Use the eye drops you receive as instructed.
  • Rest for several days.
  • Use the eye shield or glasses at night and while washing your hair, following your doctor’s instructions.
  • Avoid swimming for 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Take pain medication if needed.

When you go outside, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Try to avoid touching your eyes during recovery.

Read this article for more information about cataract surgery.

While recovering from cataract surgery, avoid the following activities until your doctor tells you it’s OK to do them:

  • drive
  • participate in strenuous exercise
  • get water or soap in your eyes
  • touch your eyes
  • swim or go in hot tubs or saunas
  • use face cream or lotion
  • wear eye makeup like mascara for a week or two
  • dust or garden

If you’re uncertain about whether you should do an activity after surgery, ask your doctor.

When to call your doctor

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:

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According to a 2018 research review, people with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop cataracts than people without diabetes, and at an earlier age.

Other eye complications like diabetic retinopathy and retinal swelling have also been associated with diabetes. Diabetes can also cause structural changes to the eye.

Up to 20 percent of all cataract surgeries are performed on people with diabetes. This is important because diabetes has been associated with several complications, including retinal issues or bleeding deep inside the eye.

Before cataract surgery, people with diabetes should have good blood sugar management and no evidence of eye infections.

A comprehensive eye examination before cataract surgery can make sure there are no infections. If there’s macular edema (swelling), it should be treated before surgery.

After surgery, your doctor will watch your eyes closely to make sure there are no diabetes-related complications. Overall, if any diabetic retinopathy is treated before the surgery and doctors monitor people closely after surgery, recovery is similar to that of people without diabetes.

Good blood sugar management can help ensure a better outcome after cataract surgery for people with diabetes. Poor blood sugar management can cause a variety of eye issues and interfere with surgery and recovery.

It’s estimated that 9 out of 10 people see better after cataract surgery, but everyone is different. You might have blurry vision at first as your eye heals. Give it a few days while your eye recovers.

Ask your doctor when you can start driving after the surgery. It’s usually several days after surgery for many people.

Your eye will probably feel better within 1 to 2 days after the surgery, but you may still need to follow directions from your doctor to ensure full healing.

Depending on the kind of work you do, you may be able to return to work after a few days. Ask your doctor when you should be able to return.

You’ll need to avoid some activities for several weeks until you get the OK from your doctor, including lifting heavy things or bending over.

Most people are completely recovered and healed within 8 weeks after surgery. Your doctor will have several follow-up appointments with you after the surgery to monitor your healing and make sure everything is all right.

When to seek emergency care

Every surgery brings risks. Sometimes adverse events occur that require emergency attention. Call your doctor for an urgent appointment or go to the emergency room if you experience any of the following:

  • sudden flashes of light
  • a dark curtain that obstructs some of your vision
  • any shadows in your peripheral vision
  • eye pain not relieved by any medications
  • severe red eyes
  • any vision loss

These can be signs of serious complications that need to be addressed immediately.

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The majority of people who get cataract surgery see better afterward. It’s a safe and effective procedure.

While there’s a fairly short recovery time, you can participate in everyday activities — within reason — pretty quickly. Your doctor will let you know instructions specific to your situation.

Follow your doctor’s instructions to help your recovery and reduce the risk of any complications.

During recovery from cataract surgery, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions. If you have any questions or start to experience any adverse effects, call your doctor or seek medical care.