Guide: Eye Drops After Cataract Surgery

An older man putting eye drops into his right eye

Eye drops play an important role in the healing process of your eyes after cataract surgery. Applying eye drops can be a daunting task, especially for those of us who are a bit skittish around the eyes.

The good news is it’s totally normal to have trouble applying eye drops. And the better news is that we’ve got a guide to help you. With a few tips and tricks (or maybe a helping hand), you can gain confidence in applying your eye drops and helping your eyes heal

What is Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is a procedure in which the natural lens of your eye is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Cataracts cause your natural lens to become cloudy which negatively impacts your vision. 

When cataracts begin to impact your daily life, your optometrist may recommend surgery. This procedure is very common and generally very safe.

How Eye Drops Help Your Eyes

Eye drops perform a number of functions, from correcting a lazy eye, delaying the onset of glaucoma, and hydrating dry eyes. Usually, eye drops are made with a saline-based solution that hydrates the eye and reduces redness. 

There are 3 main types of eye drops:

  • Antibiotic drops help fight & prevent infection in your eyes 
  • Anti-inflammatory drops help reduce swelling & ease healing
  • Lubricating drops help hydrate & soothe eye irritation 

If your doctor prescribes medicated eye drops, you should apply these drops as directed. You can use regular lubricating drops after your procedure, but don’t use regular drops immediately before or after applying medicated drops. You should give the medicated eye drops time to work.

In regards to cataract surgery, your doctor will likely prescribe drops to use before your operation. These drops help to prevent infection, enlarge the pupil, and numb the treatment area. After your surgery, your doctor may prescribe drops to help with the healing process. 

Where Can I Get Eye Drops?

For medicated eye drops, you will need a prescription from your doctor. These drops can usually be picked up from your local pharmacy.

Regular lubricating drops, also called “artificial tears,” can be purchased over-the-counter at your local pharmacy, most grocery or drug stores, and in most optometry offices.   

How to Use Eye Drops

Always use your eye drops as directed by your doctor. For help applying your eye drops, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands before handling your eye drops or touching your eyes
  2. Remove your contact lenses (unless directed otherwise)
  3. Shake your eye drops (unless directed otherwise)
  4. Remove the lid without touching the applicator tip
  5. Tilt your head back & look upward (try focusing on a specific point)
  6. Gently pull your lower lid down & away from your eye 
  7. Hold the applicator tip directly over the pocket between your lower lid & eye
  8. Avoid touching your eyelid with the applicator 
  9. Squeeze the bottle & let the drop fall into the pocket 
  10. Close your eyes (don’t blink) for a few seconds
  11. Repeat with your other eye
  12. Wash your hands once you’re done

If you’re having trouble applying the drops, try laying back on a bed or couch. With your eyes closed, apply a single drop to the inner corner of your eye by your nose. Keep your head back and blink a few times until the eye drop rolls into your eye. 

If you’re still having trouble, you may want to ask a family member or friend to help you apply your eye drops. Plenty of people struggle applying eye drops, so don’t feel bad asking for help.

With a bit of practice, you should start to feel more comfortable applying eye drops. If you’re particularly anxious about using drops, you may want to practice applying artificial tears before your surgery.

A close-up image of a woman's eye

Caring for Your Eyes Post-Surgery

After your cataract surgery, you should begin seeing improvements in your vision within a few days. It’s normal for your vision to be blurry as your eyes heal. You may also experience some mild discomfort or itching for a few days after your procedure. 

You should schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor about a week after your procedure. Depending on your recovery plan, your doctor may recommend additional appointments.

Your doctor may recommend wearing an eye patch or shield for a few days after surgery to help protect your eyes from injury or infection. You’ll also have instructions on how often to apply your eye drops. 

During your recovery, avoid rubbing or pushing on your eyes. Most of your discomfort should resolve after a few days. Your eyes should be fully healed after 8 weeks. 

When to Visit Your Doctor 

While mild discomfort is normal, it shouldn’t worsen during your recovery. Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms after your procedure:

  • Persistent, worsening discomfort or pain
  • Partial or full vision loss
  • Increased redness or swelling
  • Floaters or flashes of light in your vision

If you have any questions or concerns about your procedure, your eye health, or your eye drops, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’ll be happy to help you.

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