Updated on  February 20, 2024
4 min read

Is Cataract Surgery Painful?

7 sources cited
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A cataract is a cloudy area that develops in the eye’s lens, causing visual impairment. Cataract surgery is the only effective solution to restore clear and correct vision.

This outpatient procedure involves the removal of the cataract by an eye doctor. Afterward, they will place an artificial lens or intraocular lens.

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Does Cataract Surgery Hurt?

You’ll usually have little or no discomfort or pain during a cataract operation. Your doctors will take these steps before and after the surgery to ensure you don’t experience any pain:

  • Pre-operative anesthesia — Before the surgery, your doctors will apply anesthetic eye drops to desensitize your eyes.
  • Additional medication In some cases, you may receive extra medicine intravenously during the surgery to ensure comfort.
  • Continuous monitoring ⁠— Your cataract surgeon monitors your condition during the surgery to address potential discomfort or pain. 
  • Medication effects — The medications your doctors administer before and after the surgery may lead to temporary memory loss or difficulty recalling the details of the procedure, even though you remain awake throughout.
  • Post-operative pain relief You can use over-the-counter pain medication post-op as your eye surgeon recommends to alleviate discomfort or pain.

What Happens During Cataract Surgery?

The eye surgeon uses tiny tools to cut into your eye, break up the lens, and extract the cataract. Then, they set the new artificial lens into your eye.

Cataract surgery lasts approximately one hour. Following the procedure, you must rest in a recovery spot outside the operating room for a short time. Before you leave, a medical team will check to ensure you have no eye issues.

After surgery, your eye may feel slightly itchy or uncomfortable. It may also feel sensitive to light and touch.

Close up shot of a patient undergoing a cataract operation

Healing and Recovery Tips for Cataract Surgery

For a quick, safe, pain-free cataract surgery recovery, avoid doing the following after your operation:

  • Driving on the first day 
  • Any strenuous activity or heavy lifting
  • Bending over immediately, putting extra pressure on the eye
  • Sneezing or vomiting
  • Walking around 
  • Bumping into doors or other objects
  • Swimming or using a hot tub
  • Exposing your eyes to irritants during the first few weeks (dust, dirt, pollen, and wind)
  • Rubbing your eyes 

For the most effective cataract surgery recovery, follow your eye doctor’s detailed instructions on eye care following the procedure. Usually, they give these instructions on the day of surgery.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From Cataract Surgery?

Most people heal in eight weeks following cataract surgery. Your doctor will arrange checkups to ensure that your eye is healing properly.

Your vision may be blurry initially while your eye recovers. Some may notice that colors seem brighter following eye surgery because the artificial lens is clear.

Your natural lens may also have a yellow or brown tint from the cataract. Once your eye fully heals, you may require a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses.

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Is Cataract Surgery Painful?
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Risks of Cataract Surgery

The risk of severe complications from cataract surgery is very low. However, there are still a few, including:

  • Bleeding or infection
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling in the eye
  • Retinal detachment
  • Glaucoma
  • Vision loss

Your doctor will discuss these risks before surgery and provide proper post-operative care to minimize them. Make sure to follow all instructions for a successful recovery.

Side Effects of Cataract Surgery

This type of eye surgery is one of the most common, effective, and safe surgeries in the United States. But, like with any surgery, there are risks.

Potential risks of cataract surgery include:

  • Swelling, bleeding, or infections
  • Vision loss or double vision
  • Unusual changes in eye pressure
  • Retinal detachment
  • Secondary cataract (posterior capsule opacity)

Your eye doctor can treat these side effects if they catch them early. So, attend all your checkups and speak to your doctor if you notice anything unusual with your eyes or vision.

Secondary Cataract

Following cataract surgery, you might develop a secondary cataract or posterior capsule opacification. But despite the name, secondary cataracts aren’t cataracts.

Secondary cataracts occur when a cloudy lens develops on the eye capsule. They can occur weeks, months, or even years following cataract removal. Laser cataract surgery can fix them.

Female patient being transported through a wheelchair talks to a doctor after her cataract operation

Common Questions on Cataract Surgery

Are you awake during cataract surgery?

You’re usually awake during cataract surgery. During operation, you may notice bright lights or motion. However, you won’t be able to see what your doctor is doing.

You’ll typically receive a mild sedative to relax before your physicians perform cataract surgery. They’ll apply numbing anesthetic eye drops to stop you from feeling anything. 

What anesthesia do they give you for cataract surgery?

Your surgeon will administer local anesthesia before the operation begins. This type of anesthesia numbs your eye and eyelid, so you don’t feel anything during the procedure. 

Local anesthesia won’t put you to sleep. You can also request sedation orally or through an IV to reduce anxiety and discomfort.

What happens if you blink during cataract surgery?

You won’t blink during the surgery since tools will hold your eyelids open. This may sound scary, but you won’t feel anything because your eye and eyelid will be numb before the surgery begins.

Summary

Cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure to improve your vision. Most people don’t experience any pain during the surgery. However, following your doctor’s instructions carefully during recovery is essential to reduce the risk of infection or other complications. 

Updated on  February 20, 2024
7 sources cited
Updated on  February 20, 2024
  1. How Much Does Cataract Surgery Cost?” University of Central Florida Health.
  2. Cataract Surgery.” National Eye Institute, 2023. 
  3. Gurung et al. “Small incision cataract surgery: tips for avoiding surgical complications.” Community Eye Health, 2008.
  4. Allen et al. “Cataract and surgery for cataract.” BMJ, 2006.
  5. Davis, G. “The Evolution of Cataract Surgery.” Mo Med, 2016.
  6. MIPS 2019-Cost: The Routine Cataract Surgery With IOL Implantation Measure.” American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  7. Cataract surgery.” Mayo Clinic, 2023.
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.