Is Cataract Surgery Painful?

23 March 2022

Surgery can be stressful, right? Naturally, we’re especially reluctant to be touched when it comes to our eyes. Our ‘windows to the world’ employ more than a million nerve fibres to carry visual information to the brain – and are notoriously sensitive.

Since simply touching our eyes can cause a great deal of discomfort, many are inclined to dismiss cataract surgery before even considering it.

But is cataract surgery painful?

In short, no.

Prior to the procedure, your Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon will talk you through the process and alleviate any concerns. You will be given a local anaesthetic to numb the eye area, and in some cases, a sedative to ensure the procedure is totally stress-free.

Although you’ll remain awake during surgery, patients often don’t remember the procedure itself – which tends to be straightforward and take about eight minutes per eye. Your surgeon will check on your comfort throughout – for most, the procedure is totally painless.

At Optegra, we’re fully committed to patient care, and endeavour to ensure that every cataract surgery we perform is as comfortable as can possibly be. So, as soon as your surgery is complete, we’ll take you to our soothing relaxation lounge – where you can rest and recuperate until you’re ready to head home. Most patients feel fine to leave within an hour of surgery being completed.

So, will I feel anything at all during cataract surgery?

While the anaesthetic provided ensures you should feel no pain during cataract surgery, you may still experience some mild sensations during the procedure. At some points, you may feel water running across the surface of the eye, as well as some light pressure around the eye area. It is also possible that you may see colourful lights during your cataract procedure – this is totally normal, and nothing to worry about.

Of course, your surgeon is on hand throughout the procedure, so if you feel stressed or anxious at any point, be sure to mention it – our staff will take instant measures to ease your concerns and ensure the surgery is as comfortable as possible. 

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    Should I expect pain after cataract surgery?

    Again, in short, no.

    True pain after cataract surgery is rare, although it is not uncommon to experience some brief discomfort following your procedure. Some patients experience a gritty feeling.

    A 2021 medical study (Adam Ryan et al) where pain was rated on a scale of 1 to 10, 0 (no pain) to 10 (severe pain) revealed a mean score of 2.30 where topical aneasthetic was applied (152 patients).

    In the rare instance that patients experience serious pain, redness or reduction in vision following cataract surgery, Optegra Eye Hospitals are on hand 24-hours-a-day, so please don’t wait to get in touch. Outside of hospital hours, one of our on-call nurses will be happy to assist you.

    In some cases, we provide patients with a plastic shield to protect the eye following cataract surgery. This can usually be removed the day after the procedure. You should notice drastic improvements in the days following your surgery.

    At Optegra, we always invite patients for a 30-minute follow-up examination – allowing us to ensure optimal eye-health and make sure the recovery process is going as smoothly as possible.

    It is worth bearing in mind that you won’t be able to drive straight after your cataract procedure – so you may want to bring someone to the hospital with you, or otherwise arrange for a friend or family member to collect you after surgery.

    Is there anything I can do to smooth the recovery process following cataract surgery?

    Yes, there are many simple steps you can take to ensure that the post-operative period is as comfortable as possible as you recover from cataract surgery.

    Firstly, it is important to wear the protective eye shield your surgeon provides, both during the day and at night – when you may unconsciously rub or scratch your eye.

    We also recommend wearing sunglasses when outdoors. This will ease the stress on your eyes, which may be a little more sensitive to light than usual, and help to protect them from dirt and dust. Dr Allen Omid Eghrari, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University, states that wraparound sunglasses offer particularly effective eye protection following cataract surgery. Naturally, post-operative patients should avoid sandy or dusty environments, where they may be at a higher risk.

    It is equally important that patients prevent water, soap or shampoo getting into the eye after cataract surgery. As such, we recommend that patients wear their eye shield when washing their face or hair – and that they avoid swimming and other water-based activities for four to six weeks following the procedure.

    We also recommend that patients abstain from wearing eye makeup in the month following cataract surgery – as it can lead to the eye becoming infected. Since old makeup can transfer bacteria to the eye, we recommend replacing your eyeliner, mascara and eyeshadow after cataract surgery.

    Post-operative patients should avoid strenuous activity for at least two weeks after a cataract procedure – as increased eye pressure can compromise the incision before it has a chance to fully heal. Additionally, certain positions which place the head below the waist – such as bending over – also raise eye pressure, and should be initially avoided.

    As such, if your job demands physical labour, you should not return to work until your surgeon advises you to do so. You should also refrain from driving, or boarding a flight, until your surgeon gives you the all clear.

    Of course, it is vital that you administer the eye drops we prescribe as instructed. We also recommend taking painkillers to counteract any itchiness or discomfort.

    In summary, the prospect of pain certainly shouldn’t put you off getting cataract surgery. In most cases, the procedure itself will be totally painless – and any post-operative discomfort will be outweighed by the overwhelmingly positive impacts of cataract surgery. So many of our patients state that they did not realise how severely their eyesight had degenerated until after having surgery; likewise, lots of our patients credit cataract surgery with giving them a new lease of life.

    If you’re thinking about cataract surgery, why not get in touch today? Visit our website to book a free virtual consultation or to order a free, detailed infopack; or give us a call on 08082567434. We’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the procedure, and to assist in any way possible.


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