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Is blurred vision after eye surgery common?

woman with blurry vision holding up something to read after having eye surgery

There are several eye surgeries and procedures — including cataract, laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) and certain restorative eye surgeries like retinal detachment surgery — that can cause temporary blurry vision. Prior to these surgeries, your eye doctor will explain what type and duration of blurred vision to expect. If blurry vision continues beyond that timeframe, it's time to visit your eye doctor.

Blurry vision after cataract surgery

Cataracts develop over several years and are common in older people. The main symptom of this condition is that the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy, causing blurry vision. The lens is removed in cataract surgery and replaced with a clear, artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant. 

It should be an uneventful outpatient procedure that takes about 10 minutes to complete. For most people, vision remains blurred while your eye adjusts to the new implant.

[Read more about cataract surgery recovery.]

Reasons for blurry vision after cataract surgery

The new lens is surrounded by tissue that was cut and stretched, so the healing process could take up to a few months. Be sure to rest your eyes, take prescribed medications and follow your eye doctor’s instructions. 

Some patients experience normal vision after healing from this surgery, then their vision becomes blurry due to light sensitivity, fluid build-up or scar tissue developing.

  • After cataract surgery, the sun or oncoming car headlights at night can cause light sensitivity (photophobia), resulting in blurry vision. This symptom, which occurs most often in patients with light-colored (blue or green) irises, can be managed with sunglasses or with a prescribed eye drop that reduces pupil size. Light sensitivity typically only lasts a few days after surgery, after which your blurry vision should diminish. 

  • Blood vessels in the retina can leak, causing fluid to build up and blurring your vision. Your eye doctor can treat this condition with eye drops, but it can take weeks or months to heal. In some cases, a steroid shot behind the eye might be necessary.

  • Posterior Capsule Opacity (PCO) is another common complication that can occur when a cloudy layer of scar tissue forms behind the lens implant. This can cause blurry vision as well as glare from lights. According to the Kellogg Eye Center, PCO occurs in about 20% of patients.

Blurry vision after LASIK 

LASIK is a brief, painless procedure commonly performed to treat nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism. It reshapes the cornea so that light can enter the eye and be properly focused onto the retina for clearer vision. 

[Read more about LASIK surgery.]

Reasons for blurry vision after LASIK

Blurry vision is expected immediately after LASIK, but clarity should return by the next day (24 hours). It is possible for vision to remain blurry for one to two weeks. 

  • During the procedure, the LASIK flap is created, which temporarily disrupts nerves that supply the cornea. These nerves usually regenerate in the first three to six months after surgery.

  • During this timeframe, your eyes can be dry, leading to blurry or fluctuating vision. Be sure to attend regular follow up visits to ensure your eyes are healing properly.

Blurry vision after PRK

PRK is used to correct nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism. It was the first type of laser vision surgery and is often recommended if a patient’s corneas are too thin for LASIK.

Reasons for blurry vision after PRK

  • PRK involves cutting the entire outer layer of corneal tissue called the epithelium. This allows your eye doctor to reshape the underlying corneal tissue. As the corneal tissue heals, your vision can seem blurred.

  • Once the epithelium heals, you will move on to the next stage of healing. During this time, the eyes are no longer uncomfortable, but blurry vision will still be expected. As recovery continues, your eyesight will gradually start to improve.

  • The amount of correction made to your vision, as well as your own healing process, will determine when to expect blurred vision to disappear. Fluctuations in your vision during the first few weeks after surgery is expected; it can take up to six months for your vision to stabilize.

Blurry vision after corneal transplant surgery

A cornea transplant (keratoplasty) is a surgical procedure that replaces part of the cornea with donated corneal tissue. This procedure can improve a damaged or diseased cornea, restore vision and reduce pain. 

Cornea transplants are performed routinely and with a reasonable success rate. These grafts are the most successful of all tissue transplants.

[Read more about corneal transplant surgery.]

Reasons for blurry vision after a cornea transplant

After the surgery, your eye might be covered with a plastic shield or an eye pad, which should be removed the day after the procedure. 

  • When the eye covering is removed, your vision may be blurry. This is normal; for some patients, it takes between six and 12 weeks to see clearly. 

  • Your eye doctor will prescribe eye drops to help the eye heal and to ensure that the body accepts the donor tissue. 

Blurry vision after retinal detachment surgery

When the retina pulls away from the layers of supportive tissue, surgery must be performed to return it to its normal position in the back of the eye. 

A retinal detachment (also called a detached retina) is a serious medical emergency. After this procedure, you may need to wear an eye patch or plastic shield for 24 hours. 

[Read more about retinal detachment surgery.]

Reasons for blurry vision after retinal detachment surgery

There is a small amount of residual fluid remaining from the detachment that isn’t absorbed automatically. 

  • The retina’s light-sensitive cells, the rods and cones, are still recovering.

  • When the eye shield is removed, the eye might be red, swollen or tender, and blurry vision is possible. It is not uncommon for patients to experience blurry vision for several months after surgery.

When to see an eye doctor

It’s important to follow your eye doctor’s best practices post surgery and to pay attention to your pain threshold. Here are some questions to consider post eye surgery. 

  • Are your eyes extremely dry? 

  • Do your eyes feel inflamed, painful or appear red? 

  • Are you seeing double? 

  • Do you see floaters that were not there before? 

  • Do you have ongoing light sensitivity? 

  • Are you experiencing continuous blurry vision? 

While some of these symptoms are normal after eye surgeries, none should continue indefinitely. Keep in communication with your eye doctor, and schedule a comprehensive eye exam if symptoms persist.

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