Cataract surgery - Recovery 

Recovering from cataract surgery 

You can usually go home on the same day you have cataract surgery, although you will need to arrange for someone to collect you and take you home.

You will normally have a pad and plastic shield over your eye when you leave hospital. This can usually be removed the following day, although you may be advised to wear the shield at night for a week or two. This is to prevent you rubbing or pushing your eye when you are asleep.

You should start to get feeling back in your eye within a few hours of surgery, although it may take a few days for your vision to fully return. If possible, you may find it useful to arrange for someone to help take care of you until your vision returns, particularly if the vision in your other eye is poor.

Follow-up

Before leaving hospital, you will be given a 24-hour phone number to call if you have any problems. You will also be given some drops you need to use for the next four weeks to help the eye heal and prevent infection. You will also be told when to return for a follow-up appointment.

The follow-up appointment will usually take place at some point between two and six weeks after the operation. During this appointment, an eye care professional will check your eye and you will be told when you can stop using the eye drops.

If you need new glasses, you will be told when you should visit an optometrist (optician) to have your eyes tested and glasses fitted. In most cases, you will have to wait several weeks for your vision to settle down before an optometrist can give you a new glasses prescription.

Recovering at home 

You should try to take it easy for the first two or three days after cataract surgery. Continue to use the eye drops that you have been given until you are advised that you can stop. These are usually needed for a few weeks.

You will probably experience some side effects after surgery, such as:

  • mild pain in and around the eye
  • an itchy or sticky eye
  • blurred vision
  • a feeling of grittiness in the eye
  • a slight headache
  • bruising of the skin around the eye

However, these side effects are completely normal and should improve in a few days. You can take an over-the-counter painkiller, such as paracetamol, if you experience any discomfort.

When to seek medical advice

Contact the hospital where the operation was carried out for advice as soon as possible if you experience:

  • severe or increasing pain
  • worsening or loss of vision
  • increasing redness in the treated eye
  • the sudden appearance of floaters (black dots, specks or streaks in your field of vision) or flashes of light in the treated eye

These problems may be a sign of a complication of cataract surgery.

Activities

You can bend over, carry shopping, wash your face and hair, and generally carry on with life as normal after cataract surgery. However, you should:

  • try not to touch or rub your eye
  • keep soap and shampoo out of your eyes
  • avoid wearing eye make-up for one week
  • avoid swimming for two to four weeks
  • avoid sports and activities where there is a risk that you may get knocked in the eye for two to four weeks

You can read and watch television almost immediately without doing any harm, although your vision may be blurry until your eye gets used to its new lens or you have new glasses fitted.

If you work, how soon you can return will largely depend on what your job involves. Most people can return after a few days, but you may need a few weeks off if your job involves strenuous activities or potential exposure to liquid or dust that could get into your eye.

Driving

Up to 90% of people who have surgery for cataracts will eventually have a good enough level of vision to start driving again if they have no other eye condition.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) states that you can start driving again if you can read a number plate 20 metres away with both eyes open. Many people who have cataract surgery will need glasses to be able to do this, in which case you will need to wait until your new glasses are fitted a few weeks after surgery.

If your vision is good in the other eye, you may be able to do this sooner, but in either case you also need to be confident doing an emergency stop.

Wearing glasses after cataract surgery

Most people will need to wear glasses for either long or short distance vision after cataract surgery, even if they didn't need to before the operation. This is because artificial lens implants cannot focus on a range of different distances.

Natural lenses can do this in people under 50 years of age, but this ability is gradually lost with age, so most people require reading glasses before surgery anyway.

A review of a number of studies found that 95% of people with a monofocal lens and about 70% of people with a multifocal lens needed glasses after having cataract surgery.

Another type of artificial lens, called an accommodating lens, is designed to act in a more similar way to a natural lens. This should allow for a better range of focus after cataract surgery. 

However, while there is evidence these lenses improve the range of focus, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says more evidence is needed to be sure these lenses improve accommodation (how the lens adapts to focus images) before they are made routinely available on the NHS.

Read the NICE guidance on the use of accommodating lenses and multifocal lenses.

Page last reviewed: 12/03/2014

Next review due: 12/03/2016

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Comments

The 34 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Drazzic said on 06 April 2014

Just had the second eye done and again virtually pain free. Two days after surgery the eye doesn't seem as crystal clear as the first one, but it is early days yet. Nowhere as much bloodshot as the first and I feel as though I can lead a normal life from now on.

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okspitz said on 04 March 2014

Just had cataract surgery in China due to a vitrectomy that caused cataract to form. The wait was 3 hours in a people queue, the surgery took 10 minutes, i was awake whole time, and i will have patch take off tomorrow. But i took a couple of peaks, i can see so good (day and night), i don't know if i ever could see people 2 football fields away like this, but wow, God is so good. I had a Toric monofocal IOL. Anyway, the vision improvement i have is so drastic, that now my left eye, which has a marginal cataract, it is obvious i need to have it replaced also. Maybe i can see better than a 20 year old. Now i know why the guys Jesus healed from blindness went around telling everyone, he was just plain happy to see like me. Thank God for you hard working dedicated doctors, making peoples lives better. Thank you so much
PS: i do not know about close reading yet, looks like i may need glasses, but right now, just not being blind at night is a hugh thing, wow, wow, wow

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Shirrmontana said on 03 March 2014

#gkcrjg I've now had both eyes done, and they work opposite, one eye short sighted the other long sighted, but I know glasses will correct this, and I'm grateful I now have vision

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Shirrmontana said on 03 March 2014

Had my first cataract surgery in July 2013, which was al ittle more difficult as the lens was too tight and had to be stitched into place, which caused astigmatism, once the stitches were released, perfect vision, slightly long sighted, but reading perfect. Friday 28th Feb 2014 I had the second cataract op other eye, this time as a NHS patient at the Nuffield, and all I can say is what a difference, op went to plan no complications, took the eye patch off next morning and instant perfect clear vision. At the moment, to read it is slightly blurry with that eye, but things should improve in a week or two. Hopefully when I get my new glasses things will be fine. But fantastic, it's like I now have 3D vision, colours so bright, fantastic, we really do take our sight for granted. I'm the biggest wimp when it comes to dentist/doctors, but had both done under a local, injections into the eye are a little painful but the op itself pain free.

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sandycal999 said on 13 February 2014

I had cataract surgery on 7th Feb & was due to have this under sedation. I had requested sedation as I am needle-phobic. The only problem being that the anaesthetist srated he needed to give me the needle before they could sedate me. Due to this I had the op under local anaesthetic only, no sedation and I can honestly say I don't know why I was scared. No pain, no problems.
Within a couple of hours my vision was fantastic, I can see so well it's amazing. Anyone who is fearful need not worry - it's painless, quick and well worth having done

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eyeeye said on 05 February 2014

I have had the cataract operation on both eyes privately on the promise of totally corrected vision that will never deteriorate. I am in my mid 50's. The actual operation as everyone has said is nothing to worry about-no pain, quick, just a simple sedation jab in the hand. I was unacompanied for both and walked straight back to a nearby hotel where I was staying. Aftercare is a little inconvenient with the drops 4x a day for 2weeks and just being careful to make sure the eye isnt impacted. Some of the eye drops sting a bit. I had my ops a year apart because the first eye being a multifocal lens just didnt work at all. The vision is difficult to describe through it, but it is very glary, ghosting, no sharp edges, blurry - 2marks out of 10. The second eye was a single vision and mid distance sight is excellent, long distance 7outof10 after 3weeks, reading impossible (as it was before). Both eyes work together and make the vision on all distances, including reading, without glasses ok-say 7outof10. They both get dry and so need normal eye drops. If I had known what I know now at the outset I would have kept with my varifocal glasses where all distances are 100%-this is the best sight you will get. Is it worth having less than perfect vision but without the glasses? Debatable -some days I think yes, others no. My decision was based on choice and non medical need - I just didnt like wearing glasses and the inconvenience around them. If you have no choice because of cataracts there is no need to worry at all - just do it.

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waffy said on 30 January 2014

I had my cataract op done on Monday 27 January 2014 in France. I am a 70 year old woman. I was put under and felt nothing. Later that day my eyes were stinging a little but I did not think about Paracetamol and it wasn't that bad. Next day there was no pain and it felt better than normal. I usually suffer from dryish eyes and it felt lubricated.

The vision in that eye seems to be the same as before the operation. I had been told that they would correct the sight, so feel disappointed. But it may improve as they all heal differently, I believe.

The reason I had the op was that my vision was changing all the time and I kept needing new glasses which I couldn't afford. I had new glasses about 6 months ago and was struggling to see through that lens. I was then told that I had a cataract but I think it was only slight.

All in all the op went well and I'd recommend it to anyone who asked my advice.

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Drazzic said on 29 November 2013

My advice is dont panic, the operation for me was without pain.
24 hours after operation and the worst bit is the eye shield that you have to wear which was uncomfortable. Having said that, you only need to wear it until the next morning. After that you have to wear it only at night for the first week to 10 days. My vision is crystal clear in the eye that was operated on. My eye is red but apparently this is one of the symptoms that is expected.

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Decoymans said on 02 November 2013

I had both my eyes done in the last few weeks (October 2013). I am very happy with the results so far, just need reading glasses as I opted for the mono focal lenses, mine are made by Carl Zeiss (CT Asphina) however I do now notice the some of the things I look at have changed colour, olive green now looks grey, I know it's the lens as when I had my first eye done I did see different with both eyes but now they are the same, everybody else sees my olive green as that but no me, I would also like to put people's minds at rest, this surgery is painless, bright lights are the worst you will get, I watched cataract surgery operations on YouTube so I had advanced insight into what to expect, if you watch them, notice how nobody is alarmed by the operation.

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jayesjay said on 03 October 2013

I had both eyes done about 3 years ago, about 4 weeks apart. The correction in left eye was very much improved, this started with about 3 dioptre lenses, for long sight. Correction in right eye, started with low correction, not much improved.

For several weeks before I could get new glasses, I pushed out the original spectacle lens for the eye just done, and bought several pairs of cheap reading glasses with different powers – I needed them for reading my PC at one distance, and for reading books at two distances – sitting and standing. I had these on cords round my neck. So that is one solution.

My problem is that I have astigmatism, not corrected by the inserted lenses, and also need a serious prism correction. So I wear my varifocals at all times, and can always see in focus.
I could read car number plates at the appropriate distance fairly soon without glasses, but my other problems make it a strain without the astigmatism and prism corrections.

I have now been told that I am suffering from a possible long term after effect. This is the growth of some remaining lens cells at the back of the lens capsule. But this can be fixed quickly, easily and painlessly with a laser treatment.

I was originally told that If I didn’t have the cataracts treated, I would be blind in 6 months. Having been treated, it was a pleasure to see without blurring. I elected for replacement under a general anaesthetic, and wasn’t even told to wear an eye shield afterwards. I could see well when the bandage was removed, a few hours later, although for some days, until the dilation of the pupils became normal and under my control, I was getting a halo effect around any light sources in my vision.

All in all, I always tell people who say they are to have the procedure, go ahead, don’t worry about it, it’s painless, and apart from temporary eye dryness and similar problems, recovery is quick (normally) and low risk.

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nowaypaco said on 19 September 2013

Left eye operated on a couple of days ago. Wow! My vision in that eye was immediately fantastic. Super professionalism shown by all staff and all done within 30 minutes. Now on the drops programme. Life changing. Thank you, NHS!

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daisymaisy said on 10 September 2013

surgery done 18 july no problems at all miracle after 55 years can see without glasses great until 7 weeks in eye very sore optician thinks its dry eye so have been using eye ointment for 1 week but still very sore with headache of on holiday soon hope it stops hurting but, cant wait for other eye to be done having to wear contact in this one to balance vision out otherwise can only see with one eye don't how I'll manage without lens in before op (2 weeks) without. thanks all at Hairmyres Hospital.

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fred astare said on 28 August 2013

Just had cattarach surgery at Warwick hospital,I was paniking for weeks due to bad experiances before at another hospital, however I have nothing but the greatest respect for the Doctor and his team, I have never seen nurses that were constantly hygenic as they were at Warwick hospital. The doctor is a credit to the hospital as well as his staff, but more importantly he is a credit to his proffesion. absolutley fantastic, cant wait for the other eye to be done.

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chiswick18 said on 16 August 2013

BBarb, said: My experience was not as good as expected so this was not at all helpful.
What was your experience so that others can comment or learn from it.

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chiswick18 said on 16 August 2013

Good to read of other peoples results and learn that any little worries I had are pretty normal after effects.
I am 78 and had my first cataract done on Wednesday in Eastbourne after only a five week wait. Can't wait to get the second one done!
However a patient there to have her second one done said that she had to wait four months for that one.
An extremely efficient team and such a simple pain free procedure. I arrived at 8am and was second on the list and out the door by 10.30. I had some concern as I had been taking Tamsulosin (Alpha Blocker) for my prostate for a year and as well as causing blurry vision it can cause intraoperative floppy iris syndrome where the surgeon needs to stretch the iris.
No pain and couldn't wait for morning to see the result.
Absolutely brilliant, as soon as the pad was off and had bathed it the clarity of my vision was amazing.
Some advice is conflicting. Just wear your old glasses or just take out the lens of your glasses for the eye that has been done or just don't wear them at all.
First tried with the lens taken out from my spare pair. I get double vision on some items in the mid distance unless I get the correct angle when looking at things.
Three pictures on the wall had another one coming out of them. A lamppost had another sticking out the top. The effect gives me a mild hot flush and momentary dizziness. Looking in the mirror gave me a split personality as I could each half with different clarity and almost a line going down through me.
With my old glasses on I completely lost the clarity from my 'new eye' but with this pair on I can read without closing one eye.
Without my glasses I can only read distance as from sitting to computer screen and beyond. Also a distinct difference at the edges of my vision
I was warned that as I take aspirin as a blood thinner that my eye would be bloodshot. It certainly is this morning on day two with a little seepage of blood at the corner of my eye.

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Terry2304 said on 30 July 2013

8 days now since cataract op on right eye, sight much improved misty vision cleared after about 4 days and only have mild occasional irritation/discomfort . Vision does vary throughout the day but imagine it will take time to adjust to the new lense. The only problem of concern at the moment is light headedness especially in more open areas and I have noticed that images through cataract op eye are a little larger than through my other eye so imagine the brain is struggling to mix the two images. Internet posting do seem to indicate that this problem is suffered by many patients, some still struggling months down the line. Have been advised by POAC team to stop antibiotic drops to see if that improves things. Anyway something for patients due cataract surgery to be aware of, as I wasn't. Here's hoping my vision/brain can adjust in the near future.

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DiJoJo said on 26 July 2013

Thank you for your comment katybec. My cataract is due to surgery for a detached retina and I was concerned as well. I am having my operation tomorrow and it has made me less worried.

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Terry2304 said on 23 July 2013

Had cataract surgery on right eye yesterday, eye very watery red and sore (only to be expected). Vision so far is poor, its like looking through a thick white mist and also blurry, hoping it will improve over next few days.

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katybec said on 21 July 2013

The days prior to surgery are much worse than the operation! I had a detached retina operation two years ago so I was very worried about the outcome on such a weak eye.
Only a day after,I was thanking God for the miracle of this surgery.
Super clear vision and beautiful colours, can't wait to have the other one done !
A little too much negativity here - if you are reading this because you need surgery - don't worry -the results are amazing.

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baggie58 said on 26 April 2013

#gkcrjg - I have had exactly the same experience, worn varifocals, and was promised decent distance vision. Now it's back to front, can see perfectly well to read but distances all blurred. Not a happy bunny! certainly putting me off having my other eye done.

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portlandprincess said on 30 March 2013

I’m 50 and developed cataract over two years. I haven’t had many experiences with hospitals and learnt a lot from this one. I got worked up in the prep time and asked for time to calm down when the surgeon put the cloak over me – he didn’t have the best bedside manner and ignored my request.
• For the next cataract operation in the near future, I will go to my GP and ask for a sedative.

The operation was extremely quick, interesting and not in the least bit painful. I counted back from 100 to relax and managed to do this just twice before the whole procedure was completed. The surgeon then put a cloth patch on my eye and taped the plastic shield on top of the cloth patch.
• I should have asked why I had a cloth patch as all the other patients didn’t need this

This cloth patch stayed in place throughout the day and over night. I kept my eyes closed for 24 hours as any movement was very painful. Any movement caused my eye to run, very unusual for me as I have very dry eyes. I took paracetamol and ibuprofen every 2 hours in turn. This helped. The next day was much better. Taking the cloth patch off was very frightening as I didn’t know what to expect. My eye looked so odd, big black pupil and very puffy eye lid.

Now, just 48 hours on from the procedure, I am still taking paracetamol to ease the ‘gritty eye’ sensation. My eye lid is swollen and the white of the eye is pale yellow. However, I can see in 3D, colours are just beautiful and I am typing without the use of glasses. I can read the number plate of a car half way down the street. Yeah! It is just like a miracle. Next time I will be more prepared.
• Buy surgical tape for fixing the shield into place at night
• Have cotton wool to bathe eye with cooled boiled water
• I should have asked whether I could take other drops for dry eye

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Saint Jude said on 07 March 2013

First one done 3 days ago. Now almost 80 have worn varifocals for 50 years. Already not wearing specs except for reading. Naturally this is a bit blurry if I keep both eyes open as the lens in my specs does not match the treated eye. Amazed at the clarity of long distance vision in the treated eye. Understandably still a little sore but drops and paracetamol deal with this. Operation not particularly unpleasant - no worse than some dental treatments. More than happy so far Cannot wait to get the second one done and prescription for new lenses sorted (if necessary)..

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59liz said on 22 February 2013

I had my right eye done yesterday. The actual operation was very straightforward, I was awake throughout and didn't feel any discomfort at all. I went home about an hour after surgery.
My eye was streaming quite a bit after I got home and again this morning. It's a bit sore looking around as even when closed, it follows my other eye! It's like severe eye strain. My vision in my operated eye is already much better, I can't wait to go outside and test it, though i'm avoiding bright lights just for now as it sets my eye off watering again.
I would say to anyone worried about this procedure that it's not unpleasant, very quick and don't worry about blinking when you have it done!

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gkcrjg said on 15 February 2013

I had cataract surgury on 7 Jan 2013, I was told I would have longsight but would need specs for reading, but after all this time I can read at about 12/14 inches away but after that it's blurry, I told the follow up Dr and she told me I need distance glasses, I know what I was told and it's the opposite result, I am due to see my Optician next week before I have the other eye done in March, I am a bit sceptical of having the 2nd eye done. Has anybody else had similar problems?...

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Ruwari said on 08 February 2013

Ruwari Cateract Op Diary.
It is now Friday am and I had my cateract op Mon pm.Did'nt sleep well last night. Eye still very blood shot under lower lid and a little under top lid.. Wearing shield when sleeping. Putting drops in 4 x a day and bathing eye, not easy to do on your own.Want to go out and get some reading glasses but windy. As other eye is as bad and won't be done till May I need a balance. Without glasses I can see TV with new lens but not with other eye. If I put glasses on i can't see with new lens. Great fun for few more weeks! Bored!

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Ruwari said on 06 February 2013

Today is Weds 6th Feb. My cateract operation was Mon 4th Feb about 2.30am. The only complaint I have was no warning when injection went into my eye. Otherwise fine. Felt like walking in a prism at first. By four hours what i thought was a dull sea geen was actually Royal Blue!!!!!! If I dont rest my eyes they start to go blurry again. I am totally resting till end of week. Gradually using my eye more. This is my first the second cateract op is due in May. I am 64 years old.Drive and do yoga. I will not do yoga till next month. I will try and drive when I feel completely comfortable and clear.

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JeffersonStarship said on 31 January 2013

I had my right eye done 10/1/13 and my left is eye is scheduled for 28/2. For the first few days my r.eye was very painful and sticky however after a week it felt normal. Occasionally since it has felt gritty and sore however nothing compared to the first week. It has now been 3 weeks since my operation and the r.eye is doing very well and the level of discomfort has dramatically reduced. I had to wear an eye patch to bed for the first two weeks in order to protect my eye which was though uncomfortable very beneficial as no harm has come to my eye.

I am only 17 years old and was very concerned to hear that I had cataracts on both eyes in which developed into complete blindness from september 2012 to this January.

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Hippyknees said on 04 January 2013

Just tried to give 5star rating to this page and hit the third star first so average rating!
6days since surgery and advice was very useful. Thanks

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Hippyknees said on 01 January 2013

Today is the fourth day after surgery. The hospital advice led me to be very apprehensive and very scared.
I know they have to give the worst possibilities if there is an infection or accident but reading this was a huge help in getting perspective.
I had pain free, relatively symptom free recovery. Slight blurred vision and a persistent floater but have spoken to a specialist and it is apparently my eye settling down post op.
My eye looks and feels fine and it seems to have healed well.
I know it is not ideal but I have recovered on my own and looked after myself and have been fine. There were backup plans and I did prepare well. Baths rather than showers. Will wash my hair at the end of the week.
I am lucky that I have a high level of fitness and agree with the advice to go home accompanied. If I had had to deal with pain and discomfort being alone would have been much harder.
I know and have looked after people who have had this operation and I think my experience is more usual than the pain and discomfort one because no one I know has had any post op discomfort and their sight has been enhanced greatly.

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shropslass said on 16 November 2012

I had cataract surgery 5 days ago and the feeling I have in the eye continually is one of a contact lens in the eye. Is this normal or will the feeling subside when the lens has embedded itself? What substance are the nhs monofocal lenses made of, is it hard plastic or soft? The other problem being experienced is of ultra brightness in the operated eye, the whites being so white, etc. The imbalance between the two eyes is so vast that it gives a feeling of unsteadiness and slight nausea. Hopefully this will fade over the next few weeks.

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shropslass said on 15 November 2012

My cateract operation was just 4 days ago. I feel as though I have a contact lens in the eye and am very, very light sensitive. I wonder if this is how the eye should feel?

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herontye2 said on 03 September 2012

Both NHS and Private hosptal advice tells us to virtually do nothing post op.other than wear the eye shield at night and take the drops for a month. This totaly counters your advice above. Why?

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AlecJohn said on 02 July 2012

I had my eyes done over a 3 month period at Withington Community Hospital, and found the advice above spot on. No pain or strain was experienced, even though as a 76 year old I was a bit apprehensive prior to my first eye.

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BBarb said on 16 July 2011

My experience was not as good as expected so this was not at all helpful.

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