Phaco What Now?

Today’s cataract surgery is typically done in a sterile environment through a process called phacoemulsification. The surgical team will numb the eye prior to the roughly 15-minute procedure, so individuals don’t experience discomfort. The ophthalmologist then removes the cataract and replaces the cloudy lens with an artificial one. Once in recovery, medical personnel ensure the effects of anesthesia are wearing off before sending patients home.

Letting wounds heal

After surgery, the eye needs a bit of time to recover. The surgeon makes a small incision on the surface of the eye to access the cataractous lens. The wound site is often not painful but feels like an eyelash or piece of foreign material is located there. Being only a few millimeters in length, the wound should take no more than a few days to heal. Because of the incision, there can be no eye rubbing for about a week until the surgeon gives the okay.

Take two and call me in the morning

In the event of any discomfort after surgery, an oral pain reliever such as acetaminophen should be sufficient. Patients experiencing more intense pain should contact the eye doctor immediately. Although incredibly rare, this could be a sign of an increase in eye pressure.

Just five more minutes

When resting and sleeping after surgery, the physician will require an eye shield to be worn as the eye heals. This prevents accidental rubbing or bumping the eye on an object while asleep. Any contaminants can cause the incision site to become swollen or infected, delaying the recovery process.

I can’t do it

Cataract surgery has a fast recovery rate with only a few restrictions to contend with. With the day of surgery excepted, no bed rest is required. Most patients can return to normal activities the following day. That being said, be sure to avoid the following until the eye doctor gives the okay.


More from the anesthesia than anything, patients should not be driving for at least 24 hours after the procedure. As long as vision is well enough, the doctor will likely okay this activity during the appointment the following day.

Water Directly in the Eye

Because of contaminants, no water should come in direct contact with the surgical eye until the wound has healed. Wait at least a day before taking a shower or washing the face. Be sure to avoid swimming pools or hot tubs for at least a few weeks per the surgeon’s digression.

Makeup or Creams

Makeup and creams are loaded with chemicals that have no place near an open eye wound. Although a challenge, keeping these products away from the eye will help prevent infection.

Lifting Heavy Objects

To avoid increasing pressure inside the eye, try not to lift anything over 10 pounds right after surgery. If possible, don’t bend down and increase blood flow to the operated eye.

Drop it like it’s hot

The ophthalmologist will likely prescribe eye drops after surgery to maximize the likelihood of a smooth recovery. These drops are designed to keep both swelling and infection at bay that can complicate recovery. Be sure to use each medication as indicated.

Hit me with that script

The eye requires some time to adjust to the new intraocular lens implant before clear vision is attained. In many cases, patients will start to see significantly better within a day of the surgery itself. The overall process takes around a month after surgery, with a final checkup to see if the eye has stabilized. At this visit, the surgeon will write a glasses prescription if needed.