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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 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
  • 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 won't 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
  • increased stickiness
  • 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


  • rub your eye
  • allow soap or shampoo to get into your eye
  • drive until you get the all-clear from your doctor
  • do any strenuous exercise or housework
  • wear eye make-up for at least 4 weeks
  • 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 the operated eye
  • wash your hands before using your drops
  • don't stop your eye drops without advice from your doctor
  • don't 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 lid
  5. squeeze the bottle until a drop goes into your eye
  6. close your eye and wipe away any excess liquid
  7. don’t let the bottle touch the eye

If you run out of the drops, contact your local GP for more. You’ll need to bring your eye drop bottle and discharge letter to your appointment.

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
  • don't wipe inside your eye
  • don't wash your eye out with water
  • don't 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.

For more on cataracts go to the RNIB website.

Page last reviewed: 14 December 2017
Next review due: 14 December 2020