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How Long Between Cataract Surgery On Each Eye?

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An elderly woman getting an eye patch on her eye after cataract surgery.

Typically, cataracts aren’t something a person has to worry about until later in life. But there are times when your eye doctor may see signs of their development earlier in life during a routine eye examination.

The thing about cataracts is that once one eye gets one, chances are high that the other will also develop one. This leads to the question of how long you must wait between surgeries. Typically, you may need to wait for the vision to normalize and complete healing in one eye before moving on to the next. On average, this will be between 2 and 6 weeks.

What Is a Cataract?

To understand surgery recovery and why you need two separate surgeries, it’s helpful to know what a cataract is.

In a cataract-free eye, the lens responsible for focusing light is clear. But when a cataract develops, this lens grows cloudy. Most people will not notice any symptoms when the cataract first begins developing.

Fortunately, cataracts aren’t typically immediately threatening to your vision. And many people can lead normal lives with eyeglasses or contacts compensating for the vision changes from the cataract.

Symptoms of a cataract include:

  • Double vision
  • Halos around light
  • Trouble driving at night
  • Experiencing light sensitivity
  • Faded-looking colors
  • Decreased peripheral vision

Cataract Surgery

Even though cataracts aren’t quick to threaten your vision, there is only one way to get rid of them permanently: cataract surgery. Luckily, it’s a common surgery with nearly perfect success rates and minimal complications.

The exact process changes based on which cataract surgery you get. But there are a few things that are standard:

  • The eye doctor makes a small incision.
  • They remove the old, cloudy lens.
  • An artificial intraocular lens (IOL) replaces the old lens.
  • Once the new lens is in place, no stitches are usually needed because the incision is so small. 

Cataract Surgery Options

Your eyes and visual needs are unique, which is why we offer a variety of cataract surgery options. After a thorough assessment, we’ll determine which of the following options you qualify for:

  • Standard Implants: These lenses are implanted during traditional cataract surgery. You will need glasses to correct near and farsightedness after the surgery.
  • LRI (Limbal Relaxing Incisions): These incisions are made at the corneal periphery and do not cut through the cornea. This technique is performed in conjunction with the implantation of a standard implant to correct mild astigmatism.
  • Custom Vision: This option includes corneal topography, PRK, and up to one year of post-op visits. Incisions are made on each side of the cornea to correct mild astigmatism. This procedure corrects distance vision only and requires wearing glasses post-surgery.
  • Vivity / Vivity Toric Implants:  This option includes corneal topography, PRK, and up to one year of post-op visits. Because of their unique shape, toric lenses provide increased depth of focus, making them an excellent option for correcting near, intermediate, and distance vision, as well as mild astigmatism.

IOL Options

The most affordable IOL would be a standard IOL—an artificial lens that replaces the old one. But premium lenses enable the eye doctor to fix your cataract and correct refractive errors simultaneously.

Premium IOLs Offered by Albemarle Eye Center include:

  • Toric lenses to help correct astigmatism
  • Multifocal lenses to help correct presbyopia

Can I Get Both Eyes Done At the Same Time?

Because vision is temporarily affected by cataract surgery, only one eye can be corrected at a time. In most cases, you’ll need to wait for 2 to 6 weeks for your eye to heal completely before proceeding with the second eye. This allows the eye doctor to ensure everything is healing properly without complications.

Cataract Surgery Recovery

Generally, recovering from cataract surgery happens without complication. But like any other procedure, it’s important that you follow your eye doctor’s aftercare recommendations. Here are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes
  • If advised by your physician, wear the provided eye shield to prevent rubbing at night
  • Don’t get soap or shampoo in your eyes
  • Avoid getting non-sterile water in your eyes (shower, pool, hot tub, etc.)
  • Avoid strenuous activity 
  • Don’t wear eye makeup for several weeks
  • Use all medications or eye drops your ophthalmologist prescribes or recommends

You’ll likely need to arrange for a ride home after the surgery, as your vision will be blurry temporarily. Plus, there will probably be some discomfort as the numbing drops wear off.

In most cases, returning to work the following day shouldn’t be an issue. This is a conversation you should have with your eye doctor, and they will base their recommendation on your eye health and what you do for work.

A pair of glasses with black frame and pair of contact lenses in a light blue background.

Glasses or Contact Lenses After Cataract Surgery

Depending on the IOL you choose, you may only need them part of the time or for specific activities like reading or using a computer.

For example, suppose you go with a monofocal IOL that corrects your nearsightedness in your 40s. In that case, you may need reading glasses when your eyes begin changing again once you get into your 50s.

Review Your Options with Your Eye Doctor

Unless you have highly advanced cataracts, it’s unlikely you’ll even know you have them without receiving regular eye exams, as recommended by your eye doctor. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen the eye doctor, get in touch with us at Albemarle Eye Center. Our helpful staff is happy to answer your questions and schedule you to see one of our eye doctors at a location near you.

Written by useye

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