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Recovery - Cataract surgery

You should be able to go home on the same day as your cataract surgery.

You may have a pad and plastic shield over your treated eye when you leave hospital, which can usually be removed the day after surgery.

Feeling should start to return to your eye within a few hours of surgery, but it may take a few days for your vision to fully return.

It's normal to have:

  • grittiness
  • watering
  • blurred vision
  • double vision
  • a red or bloodshot eye

These side effects usually improve within a few days, but it can take 4 to 6 weeks to recover fully.

If you need new glasses, you will not be able to order them until your eye has completely healed, usually after 6 weeks.

Cataract surgery has a high success rate in improving your eyesight and should allow you to return to your normal activities, like driving.

When to seek help

Contact your eye surgery department as soon as possible if you experience:

  • increased pain and/or redness
  • decreased vision

Dos and don'ts

For the first few weeks after surgery:


  • use your eye drops as instructed
  • take it easy for the first 2 to 3 days
  • use your eye shield at night for at least a week
  • take painkillers if you need to
  • bathe or shower yourself as usual
  • wear your eye shield when washing your hair
  • read, watch TV and use a computer
  • use your shield, old glasses or sunglasses outdoors
  • avoid swimming for 4 to 6 weeks


  • do not rub your eyes
  • do not allow soap or shampoo to get into your eye
  • do not drive until you get the all-clear from your doctor
  • do not do any strenuous exercise or housework
  • do not wear eye make-up for at least 4 weeks
  • do not fly without seeking advice from your doctor

You could arrange for someone to help take care of you until your vision returns, particularly if the vision in your other eye is poor.

If you work, how soon you can return will largely depend on your type of job and if you need new glasses.

Using your eye drops

Before you leave hospital, you'll be given some eye drops to help your eye heal and prevent infection.

It's important to use your eye drops as instructed by your doctor.

Unless told otherwise, you should:

  • start your drops the morning after the operation
  • only use them on an operated eye
  • wash your hands before using your drops
  • do not stop your eye drops without advice from your doctor
  • do not let anyone else use your eye drops

You'll be advised further about the use of eye drops at your follow-up appointment, usually 1 to 4 weeks after your operation.

At this appointment, you may be given advice on when to stop using your eye drops and when to apply for new glasses.

How to apply eye drops

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Tilt your head back.
  3. Look up at the ceiling.
  4. Gently pull down the lower eyelid.
  5. Squeeze the bottle until a drop goes into your eye.
  6. Close your eye and wipe away any excess liquid.
  7. Do not let the bottle touch the eye.
  8. Safely dispose of the drops once you have finished your course of treatment.

How to clean your eye

  • Boil some water and allow it to cool.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Dip cotton wool or clean gauze in the cool boiled water.
  • Gently wipe from the inside (near your nose) to the outside corner of your eye.
  • Do not wipe inside your eye.
  • Do not wash your eye out with water.
  • Do not press on your eye.

During the first 2 weeks, you may need to clean your eye twice a day because the drops and the healing process can cause slight stickiness.

Find out more about cataracts on the RNIB website

Page last reviewed: 09 February 2021
Next review due: 09 February 2024