Driving after Cataract Surgery: How Long Do I Have to Wait?

Written by Dr. David Evans   Last modified on September 19, 2018

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Cataract surgery is one of the most common vision correction surgeries, and as such we field a lot of questions related to it (most of which concerning cost and recovery). So I thought I’d focus this post on answering a cataract surgery recovery question people seem to ask me time and time again: How long after cataract surgery can I drive?

older female driver wearing sunglasses and giving thumbs up

Cataract surgery requires anesthesia, so you will not be allowed to drive home after your surgery. In fact, you can’t even take a cab home after surgery. It’s not that you should expect to be utterly debilitated after cataract surgery. It’s simply a matter of regulations dictating standards eye care facilities must adhere to. One of these standards requires that patients be released to the care of a friend or relative that can stay with the patient to ensure there are no immediate side effects, however rare, from the surgery or anesthesia.

You’re probably not surprised to hear that you can’t drive yourself home from the surgery, but what about the bigger question of when exactly you can drive again? The answer is, it depends. The day after your surgery you will have a follow-up visit with your eye surgeon, who will evaluate your recovery and test your vision. Typically, vision is greatly improved immediately after surgery. For driving, the minimal amount of time before you should be OK to drive is 24 hours after cataract surgery, though you are strongly advised to wait for confirmation from your doctor based on your follow-up examination. Everyone reacts differently to surgery, so some people might recover more quickly than others. Your doctor may advise you to avoid driving for a longer period of time, just to be safe. This means you should plan on having someone to drive you at least two times: to your home immediately after surgery; and back to the doctor’s office the day after for your follow-up visit.

Keep in mind that cataract surgery has proven to be an extremely safe and effective restorative procedure, with more than 3 million surgeries performed each year in the U.S. alone. Often requiring 15 minutes or less, recovery tends to be smooth and trouble free. You may be required to wear a protective eye shield for a few days after surgery, and it may take a week or so for your vision to completely adapt. If you have any questions or concerns, you should speak with your eye doctor immediately.

Mayo Clinic
American Optometric Association