What to know about blurred vision after cataract surgery

A cataract is a cloudy area that forms in the lens of your eye. Cataracts can develop when proteins break down and clump together in the lens of your eye. Cataracts can eventually cause blurry vision and make it harder to see properly.

Cataract surgery is a common outpatient procedure that involves removing the lens from your eye and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL), which works just like your natural lens.

According to the American Optometric Association, about 90 percent of patients report having better vision after having cataract surgery.

After cataract surgery, it is normal for your vision to be blurry at first as your eye recovers. Blurry vision will usually go away within a few days.

Although cataract surgery is generally a safe procedure, there is a risk of complications, as with any surgery. These complications can increase the risk of persistent blurred vision.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what’s normal and what isn’t when it comes to blurred vision after cataract surgery.

Yes, blurred vision is normal after cataract surgery. It takes time for your eyes to heal and adjust to the new lens that has been implanted.

Not everyone will recover from cataract surgery at the same rate. Some people can have clear vision during the day after having cataract surgery. But for others, it may take several days for the blurry vision to go away.

If you still have blurry vision several weeks after your cataract surgery, follow up with your eye doctor to rule out potential complications.

Although it’s common to have blurry vision after cataract surgery, it usually goes away within a few days. If your blurred vision persists, it could be due to a variety of factors. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Inflammation

Inflammation is actually a healthy immune system response to the surgical removal of your lens. However, it can temporarily affect your vision and cause discomfort.

The inflammation should go away with medication as your eye heals. You can expect your vision to improve a few days after surgery. Doctors prescribe medication after surgery to help the healing process.

Contact your doctor if the inflammation continues to get worse after your surgery.

Dry eyes

Dry eyes can be a common problem after cataract surgery. Having dry eyes can cause blurry vision.

According to a Study 2019, cataract surgery may increase the risk of dry eye due to:

  • longer-term use of antibiotic-steroid eye drops before and after surgery
  • rupture of the tear film in the eye during surgery
  • decreased production of lubricants and tears in the eye due to the surgical incision

That same study found that about 64% of study participants had slightly dry eyes after cataract surgery. However, some types of cataract surgery had a higher incidence of dry eye than others.

One of the best ways to relieve dry eye symptoms is to use over-the-counter artificial tears. These are eye drops that help lubricate your eyes. When your eyes are lubricated, it can help reduce blurry vision.

If you use artificial tears more than 6 times a day, or if you are allergic to preservatives, use preservative-free eye drops instead.

Talk to your eye doctor if your dry eye symptoms don’t go away or if they get worse.

Posterior capsular opacification

Posterior capsular clouding (PCO) is also known as “secondary cataract”, although it is not actually a cataract. Instead, it’s an opaque film that can develop on the membrane that holds your new lens in place.

This film can make your vision blurry or cloudy, much like the symptoms you experienced when you had cataracts.

PCO is quite common after cataract surgery and is thought to affect around 20% of patients.

Treatment for PCO involves a quick and painless procedure called a YAG laser capsulotomy. This can be done at your eye doctor’s office and usually only takes about 5 minutes. This laser procedure is generally covered by insurance and medicare.

Retinal detachment

Retinal detachment occurs when the retina pulls away from the eye, causing obstructed, blurry, or dark vision. Some people also experience flashes of light or floating objects in their field of vision.

This complication is rare. A 2018 review suggests it affects 0.7% of people who have cataract surgery. People who have additional eye problems are at increased risk.

The retinal detachment is serious. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent vision loss. See a doctor immediately if you experience sudden changes in vision after cataract surgery.

cystoid macular edema

After cataract surgery, the central retina (the macula) may become swollen, causing blurry and distorted vision. This condition is known as cystoid macular edema (CME).

CME affects up to 2% of patients operated on for cataracts. This condition, which can also cause swelling, usually appears around 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.

Treatment for CME usually includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) eye drops. This condition most often resolves within a few months.

Although your vision may be blurry immediately after surgery, it should start to improve within a few days. You may also notice that the colors appear more vivid, as cataracts tend to make the colors look duller.

Full recovery may take several months, but you can speed up the healing process by following your doctor’s instructions. This includes:

  • wear eye protection at night for at least a week after surgery
  • use eye drops and / or take other medications as prescribed
  • avoiding strenuous activities for a few weeks after surgery
  • not bending at the waist for at least a week
  • do not rub or push on your eyes
  • avoiding substances that could irritate your eyes, such as makeup, soap, and dust
  • not swimming for 4-6 weeks

Your eye doctor will schedule several follow-up appointments to make sure your eyes are healing well.

Do not hesitate to contact your doctor or ophthalmologist if you have any concerns. Although complications from cataract surgery are usually rare, some can be serious.

See a doctor if you experience:

  • sudden decrease or loss of vision
  • sudden flashes of light in your eyes
  • eye discharge
  • pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter pain relievers
  • increased redness or swelling

Cataract surgery is generally a safe procedure with a high success rate. The vast majority of patients have better vision after having cataract surgery.

Blurry vision is normal in the days immediately following cataract surgery. Your vision should improve as your eyes heal. This time may vary depending on the type of cataract surgery, your general health, your age, and whether you have other eye problems.

Some surgical complications can cause blurred vision. If you have persistent blurred vision or other unusual symptoms after your cataract surgery, follow up with your doctor or eye doctor.

About Marion Alexander

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