Cataract surgery FAQs #2 / Pain? Restrictions? Flying? - A State of Sight #112

Cataract surgery is a very common eye operation as most people will develop cataracts as they age. Watch this episode of A State of Sight with Isaac Porter, MD to learn the answers to some of the most common questions we have from our patients about cataract surgery.

Welcome to A State of Sight, I’m Isaac Porter, MD and this is your update in ophthalmology and eye care from Raleigh. Today I would like to answer a few more frequently asked questions about cataract surgery. If you look back at episode #83 of A State of Sight I covered some different FAQ’s there.

Q: Is there pain during the cataract procedure or afterwards?

A: Generally no. Patients should be comfortable during surgery with the anesthetic medication that we use to numb the eye as well as the IV sedative medication that is used. Afterwards, during the healing process, there shouldn’t be any pain. However, many patients do feel a mild foreign body sensation like there is something in the eye. This is likely caused by the procedure and it usually improves over the first day or two. Any pain that is worse than this or pain that is becoming more severe makes us concerned that there could be a serious problem with the eye after the procedure.

Q: What are the restrictions after cataract surgery?

A: I ask my patients to avoid heavy activity (anything that would turn them red in the face) for the first week after surgery. I also ask them to avoid getting water in the eye for three days. Some patients may hear that they can’t bend over or lift things after surgery. I really don’t agree with this and I believe that these precautions are left over from the older days of cataract surgery. This operation used to be a more traumatic procedure with larger incisions. With modern cataract extraction, I tell my patients that it is OK to bend over or lift something as long as they are careful and not doing anything strenuous.

Q: Can I fly after cataract surgery?

A: Yes. After retina surgery when there is an air or gas bubble placed in the back of the eye, patients may not be able to fly. With cataract surgery, there are no specific restrictions on flying, but I do like my patients to be around town or available for the first week after eye surgery. If there is a postoperative problem or a serious infection in the eye (endophthalmitis) it usually occurs in the first few days after surgery. Around that time, I prefer that my patients are nearby so we can take at look at them if there are any issues. Technically, they could fly, but I just don’t like for them to be too far away from us.

Q: Can I have cataract surgery of both eyes on the same day?

A: Not with us currently. We operate on both eyes at the same time with LASIK / PRK and other procedures, but we don't perform bilateral same-day cataract surgery. At this time, there are some cataract surgeons operating on both eyes during the same day. Historically, this was very rarely performed. If an infection or serious problem occurred with surgery, we wouldn’t want both of a patient's eyes to be affected, potentially causing blindness in both eyes. However, as cataract surgery has become safer and methods have been established for bilateral surgery, it is becoming more accepted and can be appropriate in some circumstances.

If you have any other questions about cataract surgery, please post and we will be happy to answer them. If we have more questions, we may be able to create another FAQ episode about cataract surgery. We hope to see you again soon, next time on A State of Sight.