Cataract surgery is considered a pain-free procedure. It is one of the most commonly performed surgeries.
You’ll be awake during the surgery, but there is little to no physical discomfort involved. A mild sedative is used to numb the eyes.
Why Doesn’t Cataract Surgery Hurt?
The numbing eye drops that are used ensure that you won’t feel any pain during the procedure.
Some level of anxiety before a surgery is common. To calm nerves about this common surgical procedure, familiarize yourself with what to expect.
About a week or two before surgery, you will meet with your doctor to do some tests. This is when your doctor will measure the curve of your cornea and gather information about your eye shape and size. This helps your medical provider choose the right type of intraocular lens (IOL) for you.
You may be advised to not eat or drink anything for 6 to 12 hours before surgery. Your doctor will advise you on their presurgical recommendations.
Day of Surgery
Cataract surgery usually lasts less than one hour, but it may be as short as 30 minutes. At the eye clinic or hospital, you will have drops put into your eyes to dilate the pupil. You should expect to have the area around your eye cleansed and washed.
Some procedures use a mild sedative before surgery to calm the nerves, and eye drops are used to numb the eye. Generally, patients are awake during the surgery.
You will be asked to stay in the office for about an hour after surgery. Your medical team will monitor eye pressure during this time. They may place a patch over your eye.
While you rest, the medical team will observe for any bleeding or other problems. Most patients have this procedure done as an outpatient and go home the same day.
Be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home, as you will be unable to drive.
Will There Be Pain After Surgery?
After your surgery, your doctor will give you advice on how to handle any postsurgical discomfort.
When medications wear off, you may experience some mild discomfort. Typically, this does not last long and can be addressed with over-the-counter pain medication.
Some physicians prescribe pain medication to minimize discomfort for a couple days after cataract surgery.
You might have some fluid discharge from the eye, mild discomfort, or itching. This is completely normal. Your eye may be sensitive to light as well as touch.
Overall, treat your eyes with care following the surgery.
Will I Be Awake During Cataract Surgery?
Most patients remain awake during cataract surgery. This avoids risks associated with going under and allows your surgeon to communicate with you as needed during the procedure.
If you have concerns, discuss these with your doctor. In very rare cases, a patient may be under general anesthesia for cataract surgery.
Cataract Surgery Pain FAQs
Will I feel any pain during cataract surgery?
No, cataract surgery is not painful. You may experience some mild discomfort following surgery, but this can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Will I be put to sleep for cataract surgery?
No, most people are awake for cataract surgeries. If you want to be put to sleep during surgery, discuss this option with your doctor.
Is there anything I can do in advance to reduce pain?
Talk with your doctor for any specific tips on calming your nerves, reducing anxiety, and minimizing pain. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops for use prior to surgery. Follow their instructions to best prepare for the procedure.
How can I be sure I won’t feel pain?
Talk with your doctor, ophthalmologist, and the medical staff at your surgery center. Ask for confirmation that you will experience little or no discomfort.
You might also find it helpful to talk with people who have recently had cataract surgery. Personal stories and anecdotes can help relieve jitters and calm your nerves.
Cataract Surgery: Procedure Details, Benefits, Risks, Recovery. Cleveland Clinic.
Cataract Surgery. (September 2020). National Eye Institute (NEI).
Intacs or Intracorneal Ring Segments (ICRS). Kellogg Eye Center. Michigan Medicine (UMK).
Cataract. American Optometric Association (AOA).
Cataract Surgery: Risks, Recovery, and Costs. (September 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
A Prospective Study on Postoperative Pain After Cataract Surgery. (July 2013). Clinical Ophthalmology.
Perceived Pain During Cataract Surgery With Topical Anesthesia: A Comparison Between First-Eye and Second-Eye Surgery. (May 2015). Journal of Ophthalmology.
Pain and Anxiety in Cataract Surgery: Comparison Between the First and Second Eye Surgeries. (July 2021). Medical and Dental Journal.
Last Updated March 22, 2022
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