UNITED STATES—It’s estimated that half of all people will have cataracts in their eyes by the time they reach the age of 80. Cataracts are one of the most common eye conditions in adults, just behind the need for corrective glasses due to shortsightedness or nearsightedness. While not everyone has cataracts surgery to fix the problem, most adults who suffer from more severe cataracts – a clouding of the eye’s own lens making vision difficult – will go on to have the corrective surgery needed to improve their vision.
Cataract surgery is very simple and lasts around 15 minutes. But it must be carried out by a trained professional surgeon. The simplicity of the procedure is one of the many benefits of cataract surgery, alongside the relatively short recovery time in hospital and the high likelihood (over 97% chance) that the surgery will be able to correct the issue.
Anesthetics and Recovery
The surgery to remove a cataract from your eye and replace the cloudy lens with a clear synthetic lens is relatively straightforward and most patients will be able to have this done under local anesthetic. The eyeball is numbed with the local anesthetic, which allows the surgeons to get to work quickly and efficiently. While most patients will be fine with a local anesthetic, some patients will find that they cannot have the surgery under a local, at which point conscious sedation or even general anesthetic will be required.
Recovering from a local anesthetic is relatively simple and should only take a few hours, conscious sedation will take a minimum of 24 hours to recover from as will general anesthetic. It’s likely that if you have had conscious sedation you will feel absolutely fine within 6 hours, but legally you must not sign any important documents, drive, or go to work for 24 hours after the drugs were administered.
Recovering from a general anesthetic is quite similar, but it’s likely that you will feel quite groggy for the first 24 hours after a general anesthetic, and you will be expected to spend a few hours in the recovery room while you come around.
As an additional piece of information, while many patients fully recover from a general anesthetic well within the 24 hour period and go on to have no extra symptoms, some patients may notice odd symptoms for up to 72 hours afterward.
These odd symptoms may include things like feeling very cold and shivering, a sense of dazed confusion, a loss of appetite, or even an overwhelming emotion leading to tears and other upset.
While the symptoms are fairly common, they are definitely not common to every patient and can be attributed to the anesthetic leaving your system fully. If your symptoms don’t improve after 72 hours, you will need to visit your primary care provider for a checkup.
When leaving the hospital after having a cataracts operation, your eye or eyes will be covered with a bandage or shield and you will need to try to keep everything clean so as to avoid infection in the eyes. It’s likely that you will be sent home with eye drops to use during your recovery.