What activities are not allowed after cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is a common procedure to remove cloudy lenses from the eyes and replace them with artificial lenses. Most people have a quick recovery, but there are limitations on activities after surgery to allow the eye to properly heal.

Strenuous Physical Activities

After cataract surgery, patients should avoid any strenuous physical activities that significantly raise blood pressure or pulse for the first few weeks. High-impact activities can dislodge the artificial lens or interrupt healing of the surgical incision.

Running, weight lifting, high-intensity interval training, and competitive sports should be avoided. Low impact exercises like walking, gentle yoga or stretching are better options during the recovery period.


Running causes a lot of bouncing and jostling which can disturb the surgical site. Patients should avoid running for 4-6 weeks after cataract surgery. Light jogging may be okay after 2 weeks if approved by your surgeon.

Weight Lifting

Heavy weight lifting places a lot of strain and pressure in the head and eye region. The Valsalva maneuver of holding breath while strength training also dramatically raises blood pressure. Weight lifting should be avoided for 6 weeks after cataract surgery.

High-Intensity Interval Training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with rest periods. The rapid changes in heart rate and blood pressure make HIIT unsuitable for recovering cataract patients. HIIT exercises should be avoided for 4-6 weeks.

Competitive Sports

Competitive sports like basketball, tennis, soccer, volleyball, boxing, football, hockey, baseball, and lacrosse involve physical contact and rapid changes in motion that could displace a healing lens implant. Patients should wait at least 6 weeks before returning to competitive sporting activities.

Water Activities

Swimming or soaking the operative eye should be avoided until cleared by your ophthalmologist, usually around 2-4 weeks after surgery. Water activities pose an infection risk if water gets in the eye before the incisions have sealed.


Chlorinated swimming pools contain chemicals that can irritate the eye and surgical site. Open water areas like lakes, rivers, and oceans contain bacteria that could cause eye infections. Patients should avoid swimming for 4 weeks after cataract surgery.

Hot Tubs

The warm water and bacteria levels in hot tubs make them unsuitable for recent cataract patients. Hot tub use should be avoided for 1 month after surgery to allow the eye incisions to completely close.


Dry heat saunas don’t pose as much infection risk as wet heat areas, but they can still dry out and irritate the eye. Sauna use is not recommended for 2 weeks after cataract surgery.

Eye Rubbing

Patients should avoid touching or rubbing their operative eye, especially for the first week after surgery. Rubbing can displace the lens implant while the incision is still healing. It also increases inflammation and the risk of infection in the eye.

Itchy Eyes

It’s common to have some mild itching or irritation as the eye recovers. Instead of rubbing, use preservative-free artificial tears or cool compresses to soothe itching. If severe itching persists, contact your eye doctor.

Applying Eye Makeup

When applying eye makeup, use extra care not to poke or rub the eye until at least 2 weeks after surgery. Consider avoiding eye makeup for 1 week to allow proper healing.

Allergy Rubbing

Allergy symptoms like itchy, watery eyes can make the urge to rub strong. Use oral antihistamines and cool compresses instead of rubbing for eye allergy relief in the weeks following cataract surgery.

Eye Strain

Straining the eyes with activities like reading small print, computer work, driving, and detail-oriented crafts can delay healing after cataract surgery. Take frequent breaks and follow the 20-20-20 rule after screen use.


Avoid reading small font for extended periods in the days following surgery. Limit reading time to 5-10 minutes per hour. Choose books with large print text if possible.

Computer Work

Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes when using digital devices. Position screens below eye level and increase text size for computer work. Limit screen use to 2 hours per day.


Wait at least 1 week before driving after cataract surgery, or as advised by your doctor. Start with short trips near home in optimal daylight conditions after obtaining medical approval to drive.


Avoid activities requiring prolonged concentration up close like knitting, sewing, jewelry making, model building and puzzles for the first week. Return to crafting gradually for limited periods.

Eye Trauma

Protecting the eye from trauma and injury is crucial in the post-operative period. Blunt force, penetrating injuries, or pressure changes could displace or damage the new lens implant. Avoid activities that carry a high risk of trauma to the eye.

Racquet Sports

Racquet sports like tennis, squash, badminton, and racquetball often involve fast-moving objects that could strike the eye. Return to these sports no sooner than 6 weeks after cataract surgery.

Martial Arts

Sparring, grappling, kicks, and punches in martial arts and combat sports pose high risk of trauma to the eye region. Avoid martial arts for 8 weeks after cataract surgery.


Paintballs and airsoft pellets can inflict serious eye injuries. Wear properly rated eye protection when returning to paintball or airsoft games after recovering from cataract surgery.

Amusement Park Rides

The gravitational forces and pressure changes on amusement park rides can affect eye recovery. Avoid rollercoasters and other extreme rides for 6 weeks after cataract surgery.


Stooping, lifting, straining, or vigorous coughing/sneezing increases pressure in the eye. Limit bending and lifting to no more than 10 pounds in the first week after surgery to allow proper wound healing.


Avoid heavy housework like vacuuming, mopping, sweeping, yardwork, and changing bed linens for 1 week. Get help with cooking and cleaning during the immediate recovery period.


Lifting baskets of wet laundry can raise eye pressure. Ask someone to help with laundry for 1 week after surgery. Use smaller loads if doing laundry yourself.

Grocery Shopping

Grocery bags can be heavy. Opt for delivery or ask someone to help with shopping in the first week after cataract surgery. Use small, light bags if you must shop yourself.


Caring for young children often requires frequent bending and lifting. Make arrangements for childcare help in the week following surgery to avoid straining the healing eye.

Secondhand Smoke

Exposure to cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoke can irritate eyes and impede healing after surgery. Avoid secondhand smoke for 2 weeks after surgery and consider implementing long-term smoking restrictions around the home.

Ask Smokers to Smoke Outside

Politely ask household members or visitors to smoke outdoors away from doors and windows rather than indoors for 2 weeks post-surgery.

Avoid Smoky Venues

Stay away from environments with heavy secondhand smoke like bars, casinos, and nightclubs while eyes recover from cataract surgery.

Rent Non-Smoking Hotel Rooms

When booking lodging for vacations or business in the month after surgery, specifically request 100% smoke-free hotel rooms.

Use Air Purifiers

Run HEPA air purifiers at home and in the office during waking hours to filter smoke particles from indoor air during healing.

Supine Sleeping

Sleeping on the back may increase eye pressure and cause undue pressure on the operative eye. Try to sleep on your side in the weeks following cataract surgery.

Use Pillows for Positioning

Place a pillow along your back or behind knees when sleeping on your side to maintain the position throughout the night.

Avoid Sleep Aids

Sleep aids and sedatives can cause excessive drowsiness leading to rolling onto the back during sleep. Avoid these medications for 2-3 weeks.

Elevate the Head

Use extra pillows to keep the head elevated 30-45 degrees while sleeping on the side to improve drainage in the eye.

Try a Wedge Pillow

Wedge-shaped pillows that gently slope up can make side sleeping more comfortable. Place under your back and position the head at the highest point.

Second Eye Surgery

If you require cataract surgery in both eyes, the second procedure is usually scheduled 1-4 weeks after the first eye recovers. Follow all post-op instructions carefully again.

Follow Activity Restrictions

Resume the same limitations on activities after second eye surgery. Avoid rubbing, straining, heavy lifting, swimming, and sports as recommended by your surgeon.

Compare Healing

Note any differences in healing between the first and second eye. Report worse pain, light sensitivity, discharge or vision changes to your doctor promptly.

Attend All Follow-Ups

It’s vital to attend every post-op exam as directed after second eye surgery to monitor for complications like infection or retinal detachment.

Update Corrective Lenses

Prescription eyeglasses or contacts will likely need to be updated again after the second surgery. Wait until your doctor recommends new lenses.


Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure with low risk, but patients must take care not to disturb the healing eye. Avoiding strenuous activity, eye rubbing, heavy lifting, straining, eye makeup, secondhand smoke and sleeping only on the back can optimize recovery. While limiting normal activity can be inconvenient temporarily, following post-op instructions leads to the best long-term visual outcomes after cataract surgery.

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