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The Halo Effect: What It Means for Your Eyes After Cataract Surgery

More than 3.7 million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year. And like any other surgery, it’s not surprising to find that some patients will experience side effects after the surgery. One such side effect is a halo forming around lights when you look at them. 

What Is the Halo Effect?

The halo effect, also known as positive dysphotopsia is a visual disturbance that can occur after cataract surgery. It’s usually seen as a ring of light or colored circles around bright lights.

While it can be annoying and makes it difficult to see clearly, it’s not harmful and typically goes away within a few weeks or months. Moreover, there are a few things you can do to help reduce the severity of the halo effect, such as avoiding bright lights and using sunglasses outdoors.

If you experience the halo effect for more than a few months after surgery or if it’s causing you significant discomfort, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options. There may be different ways to manage the halo effect or address its underlying cause.

Prevalence of Halo Around Lights After Cataract Surgery

The halo effect, or the presence of halos or rings around lights, is a common side effect of cataract surgery. Estimates suggest that anywhere from 20 to 77 percent of patients may experience this phenomenon after their procedure. 

The severity of this condition can vary, with some people experiencing only mild symptoms while others may have more severe halos that interfere with their vision. Additionally, the type of artificial lens (intraocular lens or IOL) used during surgery and the patient’s individual anatomy may play a role in the prevalence and severity of the halo effect. 

In most cases, the halo effect will resolve on its own within a few days or months after surgery. However, if the halo effect persists and is causing problems with daily activities, it is important to consult with an eye doctor for further evaluation and potential treatment.

What Causes the Halo Effect After Cataract Surgery?

The main cause of the halo effect is the refractive index of the artificial intraocular lens used during surgery. The refractive index refers to the ability of the lens to bend light, and a lens with a higher refractive index may be more prone to causing halos or glare. 

Other factors that may contribute to the development of the halo effect include the size and shape of the IOL and the patient’s individual anatomy. In some cases, the halo effect may be temporary and resolve on its own over time, while in other cases, it may be persistent and require additional treatment. 

It is important to discuss the potential for the halo effect with your eye doctor before undergoing cataract surgery, so you can be prepared for any potential vision changes.

Treatment Options for the Halo Effect

There are several treatment options for the halo effect after cataract surgery:

  1. Glasses or contacts: Prescription glasses or contact lenses can correct any refractive errors that may be causing the halo effect.
  2. Laser correction: In some cases, laser correction procedures can help.
  3. IOL exchange: In some cases, the halo effect may be caused by the intraocular lens (IOL) that was implanted during cataract surgery. In this case, an IOL exchange may be recommended to replace the existing IOL with a different type that may be more suitable for the individual patient’s eye.
  4. Adjustment period: It’s important to remember that the halo effect can often be a normal part of the recovery process after cataract surgery. It may take a few weeks or even months for the eye to fully adjust to the new IOL and vision to stabilize. During this time, avoid driving at night and use extra lighting when performing tasks that require good vision.

If you are experiencing halos after cataract surgery and are concerned about your vision, it’s important to speak with your ophthalmologist. They will be able to advise you about the best course of action in your particular circumstances.

Other Potential Causes of Halos

There are several potential causes for halos around lights other than cataract surgery. Some common causes include the following:

  1. Corneal abnormalities: Halos can be caused by conditions that affect the clear outer layer of the eye called the cornea. These conditions include keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), corneal scarring, and corneal abnormalities such as keratoconus (a condition where the cornea becomes thin and cone-shaped).
  2. Refractive errors: Halos can also be caused by refractive errors, which are problems with how the eye focuses light. Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism are some of the most common refractive errors. 
  3. Dry eye: Dry eye syndrome, a condition where the eye does not make enough tears or those that are produced disappear too quickly from the surface of the cornea (the clear covering over your iris), can cause halos around lights.
  4. Eye fatigue: Sometimes, halos around lights can be caused by eye fatigue, especially after staring at a computer screen or other bright light for an extended period.
  5. Medications: Some medications have been known to cause halos around lights as a side effect. A good example of such medications is antidepressants.
  6. Glaucoma: Glaucoma, a condition that damages the optic nerve, can also cause halos around lights.

If you notice halos around lights and are not sure if they are caused by a vision condition, it is strongly advised that you schedule an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Sometimes, you may notice halos around lights after cataract surgery, but they are really due to another issue, and they just happen to coincide with your cataract removal.

Eye Care After Cataract Surgery

While cataract surgery is considered to be generally safe, it is important to take good care of your eyes to ensure a successful outcome.

Follow these steps to promote a successful recovery from cataract surgery:

  1. Follow your eye doctor’s instructions. Your eye doctor will provide you with specific instructions for caring for your eyes after surgery. Take these instructions seriously, as they are paramount to a good outcome.
  2. Use eye drops as prescribed. Eye drops may be used to prevent infection and reduce inflammation. Be sure to use the drops as directed and follow any other instructions for administering them.
  3. Avoid getting water in your eye. It is important to keep water out of your eye while it is healing. Avoid getting your face wet, such as when showering or washing your face, until your eye doctor gives you the okay to do so.
  4. Wear protective eyewear. Your ophthalmologist may recommend that you wear protective eyewear, such as glasses or goggles, to protect your eye from injury. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on this.
  5. Avoid arduous activity. After surgery, your ophthalmologist may recommend that you avoid strenuous activity for a certain amount of time. This will help to reduce the risk of injury to your eye. Plan on taking it easy for a couple weeks following surgery.
  6. Avoid rubbing your eye. It is important to avoid rubbing your eye after cataract surgery, as this can cause irritation and potentially damage the surgical site.

By following these tips and closely following your eye doctor’s instructions, you can help ensure a successful outcome after cataract surgery.

When to See a Doctor for Halo Around Lights After Cataract Surgery

If you experience persistent halos around lights after cataract surgery, and it is interfering with your daily activities, see a doctor. While the halo effect is a common and usually temporary side effect of cataract surgery, a medical professional must evaluate any persistent symptoms. 

Your eye doctor can determine the cause of the halos and recommend treatment if necessary. In rare cases, a persistent halo around lights may be a sign of a more serious complication. This is why it is important to be promptly evaluated by a doctor.

Additionally, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any other unusual symptoms after cataract surgery, such as these:

  • Sudden decrease in vision
  • Eye pain
  • Swelling

These symptoms may indicate a more serious problem.

References

  1. Cataract Surgery. (June 2022). National Library of Medicine.

  2. Cataract Surgery. (July 2020). StatPearls.

  3. Dysphotopsia. (October 2022). EyeWiki, American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  4. Refractive Errors. (January 2017). National Library of Medicine.

  5. Intraocular Lens Refractive Index and Its Impact on External Surface Reflections. (June 2021). Journal of Refractive Surgery.

  6. Pros and Cons of LASIK. (December 2017). Michigan Health.

  7. Positive and Negative Dysphotopsias: Causes, Prevention, and Best Strategies for Treatment. (October 2021). Current Ophthalmology Reports.

  8. The Effect of Age, Postoperative Refraction, and Pre- and Postoperative Pupil Size on Halo Size and Intensity in Eyes Implanted With a Trifocal or Extended Depth-of-Focus Lens. (July 2021). Clinical Ophthalmology.

Last Updated January 21, 2023

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.