If you’ve had cataract surgery, you’re likely thrilled with your new and improved vision! But like many patients, you may have noticed some pesky side effects like glare, halos, and vision difficulties at night. Don’t worry – these common issues tend to resolve within a few weeks. In the meantime, there are plenty of tricks you can try to reduce glare and get your eyes adjusted to their upgraded peepers.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through the common causes of glare after cataract surgery and give you pro tips to manage symptoms. You’ll learn what to expect in terms of recovery timelines, when to call your eye doc, and lifestyle adjustments that make a difference. We’ll even cover specialty sunglasses, eye drops, and lenses to ask your ophthalmologist about.
Arm yourself with information – you’ve got this! Let’s dive in and start seeing clearly again.
Causes of Glare After Cataract Surgery
To understand why glare and halos happen after cataract surgery, it helps to understand what changed during the procedure.
The natural lens in your eye is normally crystal clear, which allows light to pass through and focus directly on your retina – the film in the back of your eye that captures images. A cataract forms when the lens becomes cloudy, preventing light from properly hitting the retina. Everything looks foggy or blurry.
During cataract surgery, the ophthalmologist removes the cloudy natural lens and replaces it with a clear artificial intraocular lens (IOL). Suddenly, your new lens is letting a lot more light into your eye! This overexposure takes some getting used to.
There are a few other factors that contribute to glare:
- Multifocal IOLs – These newer lenses allow you to see near and far, but can increase glare. Monofocals tend to cause less glare.
- Dry eyes – Cataract surgery commonly causes dry eye syndrome for a few weeks after. Dryness exacerbates glare.
- Retinal swelling – Minor inflammation in the retina is common after surgery and can lead to visual artifacts.
The good news? For most patients, bothersome glare and halos tend to dramatically improve within 1-2 months as your eyes heal and adjust.
Symptoms of Glare After Cataract Surgery
Wondering if what you’re experiencing qualifies as troublesome post-cataract glare? Here are some common symptoms:
- Halos or starbursts around lights – Lamps, car headlights, and other light sources appear to have a halo or star-like rays radiating from them.
- Impaired night vision – You may notice it’s harder to see while driving or walking in low light. Vision may be worse at night.
- Light sensitivity and squinting – Bright indoor lights or sunlight cause you to squint or look away. Lights seem overly harsh.
- Glare worse in dim lighting – Unlike during the day, glare seems more pronounced in nighttime or dim conditions. You may perceive rays and halos coming off of lights.
- Difficulty with screens or reflective surfaces – Glare bounces off phone and computer screens, shiny floors, snow, water, and other reflective things. This can make them uncomfortable to look at.
If you’re experiencing any of these vision changes, don’t panic – you’re not alone! Let’s talk about some simple solutions to manage symptoms.
Treatments and Solutions for Post-Cataract Glare
The first piece of good news – your brain needs time to adjust to your eye’s upgraded optics. So try to be patient, knowing your symptoms should gradually improve over the first 2-4 weeks.
Here are some treatments and tricks to reduce glare in the meantime:
Wait for Your Brain to Adjust
Your brain works with your eyes to process vision. Give it time to adapt to the increased light entering your eye after the old cloudy lens is removed. Most patients begin to experience relief from significant glare and halos within 1-2 months at most.
Use Artificial Tears for Dry Eye
Dry eye is very common after cataract surgery, since your ophthalmologist had to manipulate your eyelid and surface tissues. This temporary dryness can worsen glare. Use over-the-counter preservative-free artificial tears 3-4 times per day as directed by your doctor. Popular brands like Systane, Refresh, and Blink work well to lubricate your eyes.
Wear Sunglasses Outdoors
Don’t be afraid to rock shades during daylight hours – they can do wonders to reduce glare outdoors, especially in the first couple weeks after surgery. Look for sunglasses with UV protection and polarized lenses to limit reflections. Wraparound styles that block peripheral light are ideal.
Have an Extra Pair of Glasses Just for Night Use
Most patients have better distance vision after cataract surgery, but you may find it helpful to have a special pair of glasses just for use at night while driving or walking in dim conditions. Talk to your ophthalmologist about getting a prescription specifically designed to cut down on glare and improve night vision.
Consider a Monofocal Instead of Multifocal IOL
Multifocal lenses are convenient because they minimize the need for glasses by allowing clear near and far vision. But they can increase glare and halos, especially for night driving. If this is bothersome, ask your eye doctor if exchanging it for a monofocal lens could help.
Discuss Additional Options With Your Ophthalmologist
Don’t hesitate to bring up ongoing glare or vision concerns at your follow-up appointments after surgery. There are additional lenses, glasses, or even further procedures that can optimize your vision outcomes. Your doctor’s goal is to maximize your vision while minimizing artifacts like glare.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Lessen Post-Cataract Glare
While your eyes fully adjust to the intraocular lens over the first month or two, you can make some simple lifestyle tweaks to reduce frustrating glare during daily activities:
Optimize Lighting at Home and Work
Position lamps, overhead lights, and window shades to avoid glare on computer and TV screens. Dim bright overhead lights when possible. Your eyes will appreciate a more soothing ambient light environment.
Take Breaks When Using Screens
Staring at phones, tablets, computers, and e-readers can strain your eyes after surgery. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look 20 feet away. This lets your eyes relax.
Use Visors and Shields When Driving
Lower your vehicle’s sun visors during daytime driving to block direct sunlight coming through the windshield. At night, use the flip-down rearview mirror shields to reduce headlight glare from cars behind you.
Wear Hats and Sunglasses Outdoors
Hats with brims and good quality sunglasses are your friends after cataract surgery. They limit sunlight and reflections that can trigger bothersome glare while you’re outside.
Avoid Direct Sunlight
When possible, dodge direct sun exposure, such as by sitting in shaded areas outdoors. Use umbrellas on sunny days. Your eyes need time to adjust to managing increased light intake. Listen when they tell you it’s too bright!
When to Call Your Ophthalmologist About Persistent Glare
It’s perfectly normal for glare, halos, light sensitivity, and night vision difficulties to continue for up to 2 months after cataract surgery. Dryness and retinal swelling take time to resolve.
However, contact your ophthalmologist right away if:
- Your vision significantly declines or you notice flashing lights or floaters.
- You experience excessive eye pain, swelling, or redness after the first week.
- Debilitating glare persists longer than 2 months after surgery.
These can signal potential complications that should be evaluated promptly. But in most cases, symptoms gradually improve on their own by 60 days post-op.
We know dealing with pesky visual side effects is the last thing you want after cataract surgery. The excitement of your vision upgrade gets put on pause. But don’t get discouraged – the remedies we’ve outlined really work to manage symptoms in the short term.
Patience and communication with your ophthalmologist are key. The glare will get better! In a matter of weeks, you’ll be enjoying crisper, brighter sight than you’ve had in years. For now, lean on sunglasses and artificial tears as needed, and try not to strain your eyes.
With a few minor adjustments, you’ll sail through the recovery process and be back to clear vision in no time. We hope these tips help you reduce glare and halos so you can enjoy your cataract-free outlook. Let the light shine in!