Cataract surgery: Complications and recovery in elderly

cataract surgery complicationsCataract surgery is a common procedure for treating cataracts. Recovery from cataract surgery is pretty smooth and uneventful, as long as you are healthy. Statistics reveal a high success rate of healthy vision post-surgery.

For most people, cataracts develop slowly and don’t disrupt the vision early on. But with time and age, this will interfere with your daily life and you’ll need eyeglasses. You may need surgery down the road, generally, a safe and effective procedure. But still…the question is, how to slow down cataracts? Are there any natural remedies for cataracts? Is there a natural way to cure cataract even?


If you’re asking these questions, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 20.5 million (17.2 percent) Americans aged 40 years and older have cataract in one or both eyes, and 6.1 million (5.1 percent) have had their lens removed operatively. The total number of people who have cataracts is estimated to increase to 30.1 million by 2020.

Just because you have cataracts doesn’t necessarily mean you will require surgery. Surgery for cataracts is only recommended when vision becomes impaired due to the cataract.

What to expect after cataract surgery

Normal timeframe for uncomplicated cataract surgery is around 10 minutes, but you will have to remain in a recovery area after surgery as you will be under sedation and feeling groggy. The post-surgery recovery time can range from 30 minutes to an hour before you can go home.

You will need someone to take you home as you will be unable to drive. Also, you will be given a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare and sunlight.

You may feel tired upon getting home, so rest is advised. Your surgeon will advise you when it is safe to remove the protective covering on the eye. Keep in mind, though, that you will need to put this covering back during naps or when you sleep at night to protect your eye during the next few days after the surgery.

Complications of cataract surgery

cataracts and epilepsy linked to protein in eyesFor the most part, cataract surgery is uncomplicated and the risk of post-operative complications is low. In the event of complications, you may experience throbbing or severe pain in or around the eye, severe frontal headache with or without nausea or vomiting, sudden deterioration of vision, increased redness of the eye, or the sudden appearance of black spots, specks, or streaks in your line of vision. If you do experience any of these symptoms, you should see an eye specialist right away.

One of the most common cataract surgery complications is known as posterior capsule opacity (PCO). PCO occurs in roughly 20 percent of patients and involves the posterior capsule to become hazy. This can occur either during surgery or months after surgery. Due to this hazy vision, some patients refer to PCO as a second cataract, although it is not, as cataracts do not come back.

PCO can be treated in a procedure called YAG laser capsulotomy, which is safe and painless. The eye is dilated with dilating eye drops, and a laser removes the hazy portion of the posterior capsule. There no incision made and the eye is never touched. Anti-inflammatory eye drops may be prescribed following this procedure.

Another complication of cataract surgery is dislocated intraocular lenses. As a result, the patient can see the edges of the lens implant and experience double vision. The intraocular lens can become dislocated because during the surgery the lens is placed in the capsular bag. Although maintaining the integrity of the capsular bag is the first priority for the surgeon, in some cases the lens can be positioned incorrectly, because the capsular bag is extremely thin and can sometimes rupture or break.

The bag itself may dislocate or break, too, due to weakness of the fibers holding it in place.

In many cases, the intraocular lens can be repositioned through a second procedure. The risk of a dislocated intraocular lens is only 0.1 percent in 20 years and 0.7 percent over 25 years, so it is not that common.

Tips for recovery after cataract surgery

After surgery, you should avoid strenuous activities such as lifting heavy objects, avoid bending forward or having your head below your waistline, avoid touching or rubbing your eye, avoid getting shampoo or soap in the eye, avoid wearing eye makeup, avoid swimming, and avoid any sports or activities where there is a risk of eye injury.

You will be able to watch TV or read almost immediately. Although driving should be avoided after surgery, you may go back to driving once you have your doctor’s approval.


Many patients will be required to wear glasses either for distance or closeness because artificial lens implants cannot focus on different distances. Natural lenses are able to do this if the patient is under 50, but this ability is lost with age.

You will also be required to attend follow-up appointments in order to monitor the health of your eyes and ensure the healing is going well. During these appointments, your doctor will also instruct you when you can resume your everyday activities and whether you need to use eye drops.

For the most part, cataract surgery is safe and uncomplicated, so you shouldn’t experience too many problems during the recovery period.

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.