Using Temporary Reading Glasses After Cataract Surgery

By David F. Chang MD

Immediately after cataract surgery, the vision will be temporarily blurry. There are normal differences between different individuals, and even between eyes of the same individual, so try not to compare your recovery to other friends or family members. Typically, the vision is clear and more stable by 1 week following surgery. Using your operated eye will neither harm nor delay its recovery.

How do I obtain temporary reading glasses?

Depending on what was planned, most (but not all) eyes will regain better distance vision during the first week. At this point, inexpensive “Over-the-Counter” reading glasses can be used to help you read. These temporary OTC readers may not be perfect, but they are harmless to wear and often provide good reading vision. They are sold at optical shops, and at most drug, grocery, and department stores. They are made and labeled in 10 different powers that increase in 0.25 increments from +1.00 up to +3.50. The higher the power, the closer the focus will be set. If two different powers both seem to work, then select the lower of the two. For certain tasks that are further away than your normal reading distance (e.g., desktop computer), a lower power should work better. Like with sizing a hat, trial and error should help you to find a power that works adequately for your preferred reading distance. It is best to wait a few days after surgery to get temporary reading glasses to allow for some initial recovery of vision.

What if my two eyes have very different prescriptions?

This sometimes happens after only one eye has had cataract surgery, and the opposite eye has a very different prescription. In this case, your old prescription glasses won’t match the newly operated eye; however, there is no harm wearing them if they help the opposite eye. If the old prescription lens is way off or bothersome, it can be removed from that side of your eyeglass frame. Our opticians can assist with this. Depending on how strong the unoperated eye’s prescription lens is, this still may not be that comfortable, but there is no harm in trying this.

Another option is to not wear your old eyeglasses, and to use the “new” eye without glasses for as many tasks as possible. You shouldn’t expect store-bought reading glasses to work for both eyes in this case. Instead, pick a pair that works with the operated eye. If you are eventually going to have cataract surgery on your second eye, these reading glasses should work much better after the second operation. Whatever eyeglass strategy you try, it may take a few days for your brain to adapt to the new approach.

When should I get new eyeglasses made?

It is usually advisable to wait for closer to a month following surgery before getting any new prescription eyeglasses. Because the prescription may not be stable until then, doing this too soon may result in having to change your eyeglasses a second time.

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