Using Temporary Reading Glasses After Cataract Surgery

By David F. Chang MD

Following cataract surgery, there is a normal period of blurry vision that varies from one individual to the next. For many patients, the vision will start to clear over the course of several days to one week. It is never harmful to “use” your operated eye and as your distance vision improves, you may be able to do more and more while using it.

Usually, old prescription glasses will no longer work very well with the newly operated eye. Because there is no harm in wearing them, some patients continue to use their old prescription eyeglasses to see with the un-operated eye. During this time, if the old prescription lens is bothersome, one option is to have the spectacle lens removed from that side of your eyeglass frame. Our opticians can assist you with this.

When should I get new eyeglasses made?

As the operated eye regains better distance vision during the first week another option becomes to not wear your old eyeglasses, and to just use the “new” eye without glasses for as many tasks as is possible. However, the better your eye is in focus for distance, the blurrier it will be up close without glasses.

It is usually advisable to wait several weeks following surgery before getting your new prescription eyeglasses. This is because the prescription may not be stable until then, and rushing this step may result in having to change your eyeglasses a second time. We will tell you when you should get new eyeglasses prescribed. During this waiting period, one helpful hint is to use over-the-counter reading glasses when you want to read. These temporary readers may not be perfect, but they are harmless to wear and often provide reasonably good reading vision.

How do I obtain temporary reading glasses?

In addition to optical shops, reading glasses are sold at most drug, grocery, and department stores. They are quite inexpensive because they are ready made. They are available and labeled in 10 different powers that increase in 0.25 increments from +1.00 up to +3.25. The higher the power, the closer the focus will be. 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. computer), you should find that a lower power works much better. Like when sizing a hat, trial and error should help you to find a power that works adequately for reading. It is best to wait 2-3 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 you shouldn’t expect these 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.

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