FAQ About Cataract Surgery

Patients undergoing cataract surgery often have questions about the procedure and what will happen afterwards. Below, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE) answers a few commonly asked questions about what to expect.

Will I be awake during the procedure?
Most cataract surgeries are performed under topical anesthesia (eye drops). Many patients will also be given a sedative and/or anti-anxiety medicine during the procedure.  Occasionally, a patient will receive a novocaine-like medication injected under the eye to relax the eye muscles and numb the nerves for pain. General anesthesia is uncommon, but can be used if you feel you would be uncomfortable during the procedure, have a difficult time remaining still, or have intense anxiety.

What’s happens right after my cataract surgery?
Most people go home the same day. Because you may feel a little groggy from anesthesia or have blurry vision in the early stages, you’ll need to have an escort take you home. It’s also important to get your prescriptions filled (NYEE has its own pharmacy on site for your convenience).

Your eye is very sensitive after the procedure, so your doctor may ask you to temporarily wear an eye shield or, less frequently, an eye patch immediately after the procedure. It’s normal to feel some itching and mild discomfort for the first few days. Some fluid discharge is also common. Your doctor will normally ask to see you a day or two following surgery, and intermittently after that. You will also be prescribed eye drops to prevent infection, reduce inflammation, and control eye pressure.

Reading, watching TV, and walking are OK after cataract surgery. You can also resume most normal indoors activities. Avoid, however, heavy lifting (such as groceries or laundry) for at least a month, or until your doctors gives you the OK. Also, avoid driving until your doctor approves.

What are the risks and complications of cataract surgery?
Complications after cataract surgery are rare, but they can occur, as with any surgery. They may include infection, bleeding, inflammation, retinal detachment, and elevated intraocular pressure. These problems can usually be treated successfully with prompt medical attention. NYEE is particularly well equipped to deal with any complications thanks to a full complement of ophthalmic specialists who are routinely present in its operating suites. We are widely known, for example, for our expertise in treating pseudoexfoliation syndrome (PXF). PXF is an age-related problem that targets mainly ocular tissues through the gradual deposit of white flaky material on the lens capsule and other eye structures. This condition can pose unique obstacles for cataract surgery, including zonular weakness (weakness in the scaffolding that holds the cataract lens) and poor pupillary dilation.

What will my vision be like after cataract surgery?
Your vision may be blurry for a few days to a few weeks while your eye heals and adjusts. If you received an IOL, colors may seem very bright at first, until the eye becomes acclimated to the new, clear lens. With the new IOL, however, your focusing power and vision will soon be restored. You will see normal size images and shapes, and your depth perception and side vision will appear natural.

How do I care for an IOL?
An IOL is a permanent replacement for your natural lens. After it has been placed inside your eye during surgery, it requires no care. You cannot feel or see it, and it is not noticed by others. Today, almost all patients having cataract surgery safely choose an IOL as part of the procedure.

Will I still need glasses or contacts after my cataract surgery?
Each case is unique. While cataract removal will greatly restore your visual acuity, some patients may still require prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses for reading or sharp distance vision. At NYEE, our cataract specialists develop customized treatment plans that help reduce the need for glasses after cataract procedures. These may include a secondary refractive procedure after cataract surgery or monovision cataract surgery, which allows surgeons to correct vision in one eye for near vision and the other for far, either through contact lenses or refractive surgery.

It is important for you to discuss your visual needs during the pre-op eye exam and cataract surgery consultation with your ophthalmologist to ensure the treatment plan fits your needs.