Cataract surgery is a common eye procedure to correct the effects of cataracts, which involve a clouding of the lens in the eye. After surgery, a person should avoid driving for at least 24 hours. However, this time may vary for individuals.

In this article, we outline when it is safe to drive after cataract surgery. We also discuss recovery tips and when a person should contact a doctor.

A traffic light showing red and green next to a tall building. People cannot drive immediately after cataract surgery.Share on Pinterest
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It is unsafe for people to drive home immediately after cataract surgery. A person’s vision may be blurry, and their eye may feel itchy and uncomfortable. Their eye may also be sensitive to light. One of the most important reasons is that many individuals receive sedation for the procedure and cannot drive or operate a vehicle afterward.

This is why a person should have someone with them who can take them home after the procedure.

Much internet literature states that a person can generally start driving 24 hours after cataract surgery, but no official healthcare guidance states this. The time can vary from person to person, as different people will have different recovery periods.

A person should always speak with an ophthalmologist or healthcare professional who will tell them when it is safe to begin driving again. Most ophthalmology specialists see the patient the day after the surgery, when the patient can ask the doctor if they have recovered sufficiently to drive.

A person’s vision may be slightly blurry immediately after cataract surgery. It is unsafe for someone to drive with blurred vision, as they will not be able to see clearly.

Around 75–100% of people experience sensitivity to light in the first hours after cataract surgery. If a person experiences this sensitivity, it may also make it dangerous for them to drive.

Learn more about cataract surgery recovery.

There are several steps a person can take in the days and weeks after cataract surgery to help their recovery.

These include:

  • using eye drops after surgery
  • avoiding getting soap or water directly in the eye
  • avoiding rubbing or pressing on the eye
  • wearing eyeglasses or a shield to protect the eye
  • wearing a protective eye shield when they sleep

A person may undergo light exercise the day after surgery. However, they should wait at least 1 week after their surgery to undergo more strenuous activities, such as:

  • biking
  • running
  • contact sports
  • tennis
  • golf
  • sex

Healthcare professionals also advise people to avoid swimming or using a hot tub for at least 2 weeks after surgery to minimize their risk of infection and irritation.

Learn more about what to do and what to avoid following cataract surgery recovery.

After cataract surgery, a person may experience some discomfort, and their eye may be itchy. The eye may also be sensitive to light and touch.

However, their eye will usually feel better 1–2 days after surgery.

If a person experiences any of the following issues after cataract surgery, they should contact their doctor right away:

  • vision loss
  • severe pain that does not go away with pain medication
  • very red eyes
  • eye floaters, which are flashes of light, dark spots, or squiggly lines that float across the person’s vision
  • feeling nauseous or vomiting

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about cataract surgery.

Can you drive home after cataract surgery on one eye?

If a person has cataract surgery on only one eye, it can make driving more difficult than if someone had surgery on both eyes.

This is because the procedure may cause an imbalance in the individual’s vision until they receive treatment for the second eye.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, if a person must drive before they have had surgery on their second eye, a healthcare professional may recommend they take one of the following steps:

  • wearing old glasses but removing the lens from the eye that has undergone cataract surgery
  • wearing a contact lens in the nonoperated eye
  • avoiding the use of vision correction lenses

How long should you wear an eye shield at night after cataract surgery?

In some cases, a healthcare professional may advise a person to wear an eye shield on the operated eye. This can help protect the eye.

An individual usually needs to wear this shield for 24 hours after surgery. In some cases, a doctor may recommend that they wear the shield for a couple of days after surgery.

Healthcare professionals will also recommend wearing a protective eye shield at night while they sleep. A person should speak to their ophthalmologist, who can outline how long they should wear their protective eye shield at night.

Cataract surgery is a common treatment for cataracts. Different people have varying recovery periods for this surgical procedure.

It is unsafe for someone to drive immediately after cataract surgery. A person should consult their ophthalmologist or healthcare professional, who can tell them when it is safe for them to begin driving again.