Does Cataract Surgery Hurt?

Updated: July 28, 2023

Author: David M. Amsterdam, M.D.

is cataract surgery painful

More than 24.4 million Americans over the age of 40 get cataracts. Since our eyes, like our other senses, such as hearing, play a significant role in our lives, the anxiety around cataract surgery is understandable.

Yet, a cataract operation is one of the most widely performed surgeries in developed countries used to correct vision and improve the quality of life of millions of patients. Still, as you may wonder about eye pain after cataract surgery – How severe is it? Should you worry? Is cataract surgery painful?

The good news: While it may cause mild discomfort, this eye surgery isn’t painful.

Will I Be Awake During Cataract Surgery?

does cataract surgery hurt

General anesthesia for cataract removal is exceedingly uncommon. In most instances, patients remain awake throughout the procedure. While you will be conscious during the surgery, numerous precautions are implemented to guarantee a painless experience. Typically, you will receive a mild sedative beforehand to induce relaxation. Moreover, topical anesthetic drops will be administered to numb your eyes.

Blinking and Cataract Surgery: Is It a Concern?

However, modern surgical techniques, such as phacoemulsification, use ultrasound to break up the cataract and remove it, which allows the eye surgeon to continue the procedure even if there is a brief interruption due to blinking.

Reducing Pain During Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery techniques have been refined to prioritize patient comfort. Before the surgery, you will use antibiotics and anti-inflammatory eye drops to keep your eyes comfortable.

To perform cataract surgery, a sedative will be administered on the day of the procedure to help you relax. A lid guard will hold your eyes open, and anesthetic eye drops will prevent discomfort. While you may feel pressure, there should be no pain during cataract surgery.

During the surgery, you might see changing bright lights resembling a kaleidoscope. Your cataract surgeon will check your well-being throughout, but you may not remember the details due to medication. Generally, patients handle cataract surgery exceptionally well.

How Long Is Cataract Surgery Recovery?

eye pain after cataract surgery

Recovery time after cataract surgery varies, but most people experience little or no discomfort and significant vision improvement within a few days to weeks.

Here’s a concise timeline:

  1. Immediate postoperative period: Recovery area stay for 30 minutes to an hour;
  2. First few days: Mild discomfort, light sensitivity, and prescribed eye drops;
  3. Vision improvement: Noticeable improvement in a few days, though some blurriness may persist;
  4. Stabilization: Ongoing improvement over a few weeks with follow-up appointments;
  5. Full recovery: Typically within four to six weeks, depending on individual factors.

Consult your ophthalmologist for personalized recovery information.

Cataract Surgery Recovery: Healing Strategies and Helpful Tips

Here are some eye care healing and recovery tips to ensure a quick, safe, and pain-free cataract surgery recovery:

  • Do not drive on the first day after your cataracts are removed;
  • Avoid any strenuous activities or heavy lifting for a few weeks;
  • Refrain from bending over immediately after surgery to avoid additional pressure on the eye;
  • Move around carefully after the surgery to prevent accidental bumps into objects or doors;
  • Do not swim or use a hot tub during the first week of recovery to minimize the risk of infection;
  • Protect your eye from irritants such as dust, dirt, pollen, and wind during the initial weeks of recovery;
  • Refrain from rubbing your eyes following cataract surgery;
  • Follow your eye doctor’s detailed instructions on eye care after the procedure for the most effective recovery. These instructions are usually provided to you on the day of surgery.

Possible Side Effects of Cataract Surgery

pain in eye after cataract surgery

Cataract surgery pain is rare and could indicate a complication, so talk to your surgery center or doctor if you experience this. However, mild to moderate post-surgical discomfort is common after medications wear off.

If it is bothersome, ask your doctor if you can take Tylenol; this generally takes care of any soreness. If you have discomfort, it should only last a few days.

Other common symptoms to expect after this refractive surgery include:

  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Feeling like something is in the eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Light sensitivity

These symptoms are usually mild and temporary. Ask your doctor if you can use artificial tears during the recovery period, as these can alleviate discomfort.

Is Cataract Surgery Painful Afterwards?

Immediately after the surgery, your eyes might feel gritty, dry, red, and bloodshot. It’s worth noting that cataract surgery can potentially worsen or trigger dry eye disease, which can range from mild dryness to severe pain.

Discomfort after cataract surgery, including cataract surgery, inflammation, and wound healing, are natural bodily responses. Some individuals may encounter heightened sensitivity to glare in the weeks to months following the procedure, which can be painful in bright environments.

To alleviate post-operative discomfort, there are measures you can take. Tear lubricants can help soothe irritation or dryness in the eye, while diligently using the prescribed post-operative eye drops can assist in managing inflammation. Oral painkillers can also minimize discomfort.

It’s important to communicate any concerns or persistent pain in the eye after cataract surgery to your doctor, as they can provide guidance and adjust the post-operative care plan if necessary.


Cataract surgery is often a surprising and positive experience for most individuals due to its quick and painless nature. Many patients are amazed by the efficiency and effectiveness of the procedure. Although some people may encounter minor discomfort in the postoperative period, it is typically transient and manageable.

If you are contemplating cataract surgery and are eager to regain clear vision, we encourage you to take the next step by taking an online cataract self-test. If positive, or if you have any eye health concerns, we urge you to schedule an eye appointment at Discover Vision Centers in Kansas or Missouri.

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