Cataract surgery takes about 20–30 minutes. Surgery results and the new lens last most people the rest of their lives. Some people may need a follow-up procedure.

person having an eye exam before cataract surgeryShare on Pinterest
FG Trade/Getty Images

Cataract surgery corrects a cloudy lens. The surgery is quick, lasting only 20–30 minutes. During surgery, your cloudy lens is removed, and a new artificial lens is installed.

For most people, the new artificial lens lasts the rest of their lives, and they maintain their improved vision.

Cataract surgery itself is a quick surgery, lasting around 30 minutes.

You will need to arrive early to prepare for your cataract surgery. You will also remain in your doctor’s office for a while after surgery to be sure you have recovered from anesthesia.

Learn more about what to expect during cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is usually permanent. The new artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL), is designed to last the rest of your life. Most people do not need additional surgery after cataract surgery.

Since the artificial lens is made of durable synthetic material, your cataract cannot return to that lens.

Rarely, some people may need additional corrective surgery. Follow-up care or procedures might be needed in the following cases:

  • If the membrane that holds the IOL becomes cloudy (called posterior capsular opacification), you may need a painless laser procedure to make it clear again.
  • Fragments of your old lens may still be in your eye. Sometimes, these fragments may fall to the back of your eye during surgery.
  • If the IOL moves out of place, you may need another procedure to return it to its proper location on your eye.
  • If you develop a detached retina, you’ll need surgery to repair it, though this is very rare.

Following cataract surgery, your vision should improve quickly.

It may take up to a month to fully recover and see the full benefits. Your doctor will likely prescribe medicated drops to put in the eye where surgery was performed. They will likely ask you to wear a protective eye shield while you sleep for a while.

You will need to avoid touching or rubbing your eye and wear sunglasses when outside.

You may need to avoid certain things for a period following your surgery, such as:

  • wearing mascara or eyeliner
  • getting water, soap, makeup remover, or facial cleanser in your eyes
  • swimming
  • using face cream or lotion near your eye
  • taking a sauna
  • using a hot tub
  • dusting or being in a very dusty place
  • gardening or being around loose soil

If you need cataract surgery in your other eye, your doctor will want you to wait at least 1 week before having the other eye done. This time frame helps your doctor ensure your first eye is healing properly and that you do not develop any complications, such as infection, in the first eye.

Your doctor may want you to wait longer than 1–2 weeks if your eye needs more time to heal.

It may be longer before you have the second eye surgery since it may take up to 8 weeks for an eye to completely heal after cataract surgery.

When can I drive after cataract surgery?

You will need a ride home following your cataract surgery.

Talk with your surgeon about exactly when it’s OK to drive again. Most people can drive a few days after their surgery.

How much time will I miss from work?

You may be able to return to work within 2–3 days after your eye surgery.

Your surgeon will let you know when you can return to work. They can also provide any documentation you need for your job.

Once you return to work, there may still be activities you cannot do, like lifting heavy objects or being in very dusty places.

Can I sleep on my side or my stomach after cataract surgery?

Talk with your surgeon about the best sleeping position following surgery.

In general, if you sleep on your side, it’s a good idea to sleep on the opposite side of the eye that is healing. It’s also a good idea not to put pressure on your eye as it’s healing.

Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries. It’s considered very safe. Nearly 9 out of 10 people report seeing better after their cataract surgery.

Some people do have complications. Researchers report up to half of adults who have cataract surgery develop posterior capsule opacification and need a second procedure to correct it.

Cataract surgery is a relatively quick procedure, lasting around 30 minutes. The new lens that is installed in your eye should last the rest of your life.