How long do you have to keep your eye covered after cataract surgery?

If you’ve had cataract surgery, you may be wondering how long you’ll need to keep your eye covered afterward. This is an important part of the recovery process, so it’s essential to follow your surgeon’s specific instructions. However, there are some general guidelines for how long you can expect to wear an eye covering after cataract surgery.

Quick Answer

Most patients need to keep their eye covered for 1-2 days after cataract surgery. Your surgeon may recommend covering your eye for up to a week if you had complex cataract surgery.

Why You Need to Cover Your Eye After Cataract Surgery

There are a few reasons why it’s important to keep your eye covered after cataract surgery:

  • To protect the incision site – After cataract surgery, your surgeon makes an incision in your cornea to access and remove the cloudy lens. Keeping this incision covered prevents rubbing and contamination while it heals.
  • To prevent bumping or touching the eye – Keeping your eye covered makes you less likely to accidentally bump or touch your eye, which could displace or damage delicate tissues.
  • To control swelling – Light exposure can increase inflammation and swelling after surgery. Keeping your eye covered limits light and helps control post-op swelling.
  • To minimize pain and foreign body sensation – Exposing your eye to light too soon may increase sensations of pain or foreign body discomfort. Keeping it covered can minimize these feelings.

How Long to Keep Your Eye Covered After Standard Cataract Surgery

If you had routine, uncomplicated cataract surgery, your surgeon will likely recommend keeping your eye covered for 1-2 days afterward. This covers the most critical healing period.

Here are some general timelines for covering your eye after standard cataract surgery:

  • Day of surgery: Your eye is covered immediately after surgery. You will leave the surgery center still wearing an eye covering.
  • Day 1: Typically you will be instructed to continue wearing the eye covering overnight after surgery and for the duration of the first day.
  • Day 2: In most cases, you can remove the eye covering on the second day after your procedure. Your doctor will instruct you on proper eye drop use and precautions.

After the first 1-2 days, you may still need to wear sunglasses or other eye protection when going outside on sunny days. But keeping the eye continuously covered is usually not necessary beyond the first couple days.

When to Keep the Eye Covered Longer

In some situations, your ophthalmologist may advise you to keep your eye covered for longer than 1-2 days after cataract surgery, such as:

  • If you had complex cataract surgery – Procedures like correcting astigmatism during cataract surgery create more extensive incisions and swelling. This may require covering the eye for 5-7 days.
  • If you had stitches placed – Some surgeons close the incision with dissolving stitches. These may necessitate covering the eye for a full week post-op.
  • If you experience complications – Complications like bleeding, infection, or inflammation may warrant keeping the eye covered longer to allow more healing.
  • If you had an eye injury recently – Previous eye trauma in the months preceding surgery may mean a longer recovery is needed.

Talk to your ophthalmologist about how long they recommend you keep your eye covered based on the specifics of your case and surgical approach.

How to Cover Your Eye After Cataract Surgery

There are a few options for covering and protecting your eye in the days following cataract surgery:

  • Eye shield bandage: This is a protective plastic cup that sits over your eye, secured with tape. Your surgeon will place it immediately after cataract surgery.
  • Eye patch: Adhesive eye patches can also be used to keep your eye covered after surgery.
  • Sunglasses or goggles: Once your doctor gives the okay, sunglasses or protective goggles can be worn instead of an eye patch or bandage.

It’s important to follow your surgeon’s specific recommendations on using these eye coverings after surgery. Don’t change or remove the bandage until your doctor instructs you to do so.

Protecting Your Eye After the Bandage Comes Off

Once your surgeon gives you the go-ahead to remove the protective eye covering, you’ll still need to be gentle with your eye for several weeks. Here are some tips for protecting your eye after surgery:

  • Wear sunglasses outdoors, even on cloudy days.
  • Use lubricating eye drops if your eye feels dry or scratchy.
  • Avoid rubbing or touching your eye.
  • Don’t get water, soap or shampoo in your eye when bathing or showering.
  • Take prescribed antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops to control infection and swelling.
  • Use caution when driving, watching TV, reading or doing detail work – your vision may be blurry.
  • Bend at the knees instead of the waist to pick things up to avoid pressure on your eye.
  • Sleep with your head elevated to minimize swelling.
  • Avoid strenuous exercise for at least 2 weeks.

Your ophthalmologist will let you know when you can return to your normal routine. Most patients see significant improvement in vision within 1-2 weeks after cataract surgery.

Signs of Problems After Cataract Surgery

It’s essential to watch for any concerning symptoms after cataract surgery and notify your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • Severe pain in the eye
  • Significantly worsening vision
  • Pus or discharge coming from the eye
  • Redness or swelling that gets progressively worse
  • Nausea, sensitivity to light, or headache

Some mild discomfort, swelling, bruising and vision changes are normal. But worsening symptoms, especially after the first 2-3 days, may indicate complications that need medical treatment.

When to See Your Doctor After Cataract Surgery

You will have frequent follow-up appointments with your ophthalmologist after cataract surgery. This allows them to monitor your healing and results. Here is a general timeline for postoperative cataract appointments:

  • Day after surgery: In many cases you will see your surgeon the day after cataract surgery for a brief post-op check.
  • 1 week after: Plan to follow up 1 week after surgery for an eye exam and to discuss recovery so far.
  • 1 month after: You’ll have an extensive eye exam to check your vision with glasses or contacts if needed.
  • 3-6 months after: Your doctor will want to evaluate your vision again several months post-op to ensure you’re seeing your best.

In addition to your scheduled visits, call your ophthalmologist right away if you have any concerns like worsening pain, vision changes or discharge.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I shower or get my eye wet after cataract surgery?

You need to keep your eye dry for the first few days after surgery. Once the bandage comes off, avoid directly splashing water in your eye from the shower head or shampoo for 1-2 weeks. Use a washcloth to gently clean around the eye if needed.

When can I read or watch TV after cataract surgery?

Your doctor will advise you on when it’s safe to resume reading and other visually intensive tasks. For the first few days, limit screen use to avoid strain. Once swelling goes down, you can gradually resume reading and TV, taking frequent breaks to rest your eye.

How soon after cataract surgery can I resume driving?

You shouldn’t drive immediately after cataract surgery. Once your vision clears, your doctor will examine your eyes and determine if it’s safe to resume driving, usually within 1-2 weeks. Keep your first trips short and during the daytime at first.

When can I start wearing eye makeup again after cataract surgery?

Avoid wearing eye makeup for 1-2 weeks after surgery to minimize infection risk. After this period, stick to gentle mineral powders and clean brushes. Avoid eyeliner pencils inside the eyelid margins. Check with your surgeon when regular use can resume.

How soon after cataract surgery can I fly on an airplane?

Flying is not recommended immediately after surgery, but is generally safe after 1-2 weeks once your eye has healed. Some doctors may advise no flying for 1 month after surgery, especially if you had complications. Always get your surgeon’s input before air travel after cataract surgery.


Covering your eye after cataract surgery is a crucial part of the recovery process. Your ophthalmologist will instruct you on precisely how long you need to keep your eye protected, based on the specifics of your surgery. While 1-2 days is typical, more complex procedures or complications may warrant covering the eye for longer. With proper care following your doctor’s postoperative orders, your eye should heal well, allowing you to get back to your regular routine and enjoy improved vision after cataract surgery.

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