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Is It Normal to Have Watery Eyes after Cataract Surgery?

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A young woman in her parka rubbing the tears out of the sides of her eyes.

Cataracts occur as part of the aging process. While you can manage cataracts in the early stages with the help of your eye doctor, cataract surgery is the only way to remove a cataract. 

Cataract surgery is a common procedure that millions of people undergo every year. While the surgery is generally considered safe and effective, it may have side effects. 

If you’ve had cataract surgery and are experiencing watery eyes, you may wonder if this is normal. A temporary side effect of cataract surgery is watery eyes and dry eyes, which can sometimes cause excessive tearing. 

Speaking with your eye care team and learning why watery eyes can occur after cataract surgery can help you know what to do if you experience this kind of side effect.

What Is Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is a procedure that removes a lens affected by a cataract, which is a clouding of the natural lens in the eye that can cause blurry or distorted vision. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant, called an intraocular lens (IOL), which can help to restore clear vision. 

Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure. You are awake during the surgery, and your eyes are numbed. The surgery typically takes just one visit, and patients can usually return home the same day. 

Watery Eyes after Cataract Surgery

After cataract surgery, your eyes need time to heal and adjust, and it can take time for your vision to improve gradually. It’s not unexpected to have temporary side effects after cataract surgery, including the following:

  • Blurry vision
  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Soreness or pain
  • Swelling
  • Floaters
  • Light sensitivity
  • Halo effect around lights

One complication of cataract surgery is dry eye, which occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or your tears evaporate too quickly. 

Some people wonder why your eyes can water if there aren’t enough tears. 

Severe dry eyes can actually cause you to produce excess tears because your eyes aren’t receiving enough lubrication or your tear film is imbalanced. Untreated dry eye can therefore lead to an overproduction of lower-quality tears. 

Cataract surgery can disrupt your natural tear film. Several studies in 2017 and 2019 show participants developing dry eye symptoms after cataract surgery. Other causes of dry eye after cataract surgery can include:

  • Prolonged use of antibiotic steroid eye drops
  • Reduce mucin production in the eye
  • Reduced tear film production due to inflammation

In many cases, excessive tearing can improve within a few days to weeks after the surgery. However, if your watery eyes persist longer, consult your eye doctor to rule out any other underlying conditions. For those who have had dry eyes before cataract surgery, symptoms can worsen after the procedure. 

Young woman drinking a glass of water in her living room.

How to Manage Watery Eyes after Cataract Surgery

While watery eyes after cataract surgery can be frustrating, there are several things you can do to manage this symptom, including the following: 

  • Use eye drops: Your eye doctor may prescribe eye drops or artificial tears to lubricate your eyes and reduce inflammation, which can alleviate tearing.
  • Wear sunglasses: Sunglasses can help protect against wind and dust, which can irritate your eyes and exacerbate tearing. 
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can worsen dry eye symptoms. Drinking plenty of water can help keep your eyes lubricated.
  • Use a humidifier: Using a humidifier can help reduce dry air indoors, which is a potential cause of dry eye symptoms. 

When to See Your Eye Doctor

You will typically see your eye doctor regularly after your surgery, after a day or two, a week, and a month to monitor your healing and progress and look for complications. Complete healing from cataract surgery takes place after several weeks. 

While watery eyes after cataract surgery are typically a temporary side effect, it is important to monitor your symptoms and seek medical attention if your dry eyes persist. If you experience the following symptoms with watery eyes, speak with your eye doctor:

  • Severe pain
  • Vision changes
  • Redness
  • Gritty sensations
  • Swelling that doesn’t go away or gets worse

Improve Your Vision

Watery eyes after cataract surgery are not unusual, but they are typically a temporary side effect. Dry eye symptoms can vary in individuals. If you experience lasting dry eye symptoms after your surgery, speak to our team at Pacific EyeCare Optometry about how to maintain treatment to relieve your symptoms. 

Book an appointment to learn more about how we can support your recovery after cataract surgery.

Written by Total Vision

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