How long a person must wait between the first and second eye for cataract surgery can vary. It depends on several factors, including their initial recovery and preferences.

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Cataract surgery can help improve a person’s vision by removing and replacing a cloudy lens. The procedure lasts approximately 1 hour and is generally safe and effective.

Doctors typically only perform the surgery on one eye at a time. This is to ensure the first eye heals without complications before operating on the second eye.

This article reviews guidelines for the time between cataract surgeries and what to expect following cataract surgery.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and other organizations do not specify the exact length of time necessary between cataract surgery on the first and second eye. Instead, they provide some guidelines on when it is safe for a person to have the following procedure.

The following factors can help a doctor determine the interval between each eye:

  • visual needs and preferences of the person
  • visual acuity, or sharpness, and function of the second eye
  • assessment of refractive error of the first eye to select the appropriate lens for the second eye
  • the medical and refractive stability of the first eye
  • degree of anisometropia and the need to restore binocular vision

Other considerations for the time between each procedure can include the following:

  • that enough time has passed to allow assessment and treatment of complications from the first eye procedure
  • a person’s preference
  • travel and logistical considerations of the person

People can ask the doctor performing the surgery when they believe they can schedule the second eye. A doctor can give a person a better idea of their practice’s guidelines for when the second eye can undergo the procedure.

Following cataract surgery, most facilities will require the person to wait 15–30 minutes in a recovery room. Most people can go home after this time. A person should plan to bring a support person to help them get home.

A person should also follow all instructions from the care facility or practitioner performing the procedure. Some general steps during recovery may include:

  • using eye drops as prescribed
  • avoiding touching or rubbing the eye
  • wearing a protective shield during sleep
  • activities that a person can continue or stop during recovery
  • avoiding soapy water near their eye

Read more about cataract surgery recovery.

As they recover, a person should check for signs of complications. Some possible issues include:

There is also a risk that a person will develop posterior capsular opacification (PCO). This condition can occur anywhere from weeks to years after the procedure. PCO occurs when the posterior capsule holding the lens implant becomes cloudy.

To correct this, a doctor typically uses a laser to remove the small membrane and restore clear vision.

Cataract surgery will not correct other eye issues. A person may need additional treatments for underlying eye issues unrelated to their cataract.

Cataract surgery does not typically happen in both eyes at the same time. This is to help protect a person’s vision from potential complications.

Instead, doctors wait for some time between the first and second eye. Several factors can affect the procedure for the second eye, including the person’s preferences, healing, and complications.

A person should talk with the facility performing the first surgery. They can provide a general guideline of when they can schedule the next procedure. The treating facility may have guidance to follow and make recommendations from this.

During recovery, a person should follow all instructions from the treating doctor or facility. They will typically provide guidelines on when to return to activities alongside ways to aid healing, such as avoiding contact with the eyes and using prescribed eye drops.