June 25, 2022 | Cataracts

Are There Dangers Cooking After Cataract Surgery?

By Barrett Eubanks, M.D.

Are There Dangers Cooking After Cataract Surgery?

For some, cooking at home is a chance to show off their creativity and taste. For others, cooking at home is essential to just get a healthy well rounded meal. Whatever the reason, unless you exclusively go out to eat or pick up take-out, you do some cooking at home. The development of cataracts can impair your ability to cook at home and removing them can make it much easier to prepare food for yourself and loved ones. But while generally safe, there are a few ways cooking after cataract surgery can affect the healing of your eyes.

Cooking after cataract surgery isn’t necessarily dangerous. But it’s important to limit bending over, heavy lifting and avoid extra irritation to the eyes. Cooking can pose challenges to meeting these requirements. In addition, the prescription change after cataract surgery can potentially make certain cooking activities unsafe.

These aren’t issues in the long term, but it’s important to pay attention to these things for the first few weeks after cataract surgery. Even once the cataract is removed and the new artificial lens is in place, you’re not quite fully recovered from cataract surgery. Gradually over the course of the first few weeks after cataract surgery, the rest of the healing occurs.

The Cataract Incisions Need To Heal Up

Did you know that the tiny incisions made during cataract surgery are completely water tight? And this is all accomplished without any stitches or sutures. Avoiding the need for any stitches makes the recovery after cataract surgery quicker.

But even watertight cataract incisions can potentially leak. This can happen if the pressure inside the eye goes up. After-all, if you remember from physics, pressure likes to flow from high pressure to low pressure.

Thus, to prevent these incisions from leaking (which can increase the risk of an infection in the eye), there are restrictions you should follow after cataract surgery for the first few weeks. These restrictions include heavy lifting and bending over and are designed to prevent the pressure of the eye from increasing.

Fortunately it is quite rare that bending over or lifting heavy objects will actually cause any issues. But in general, we like to be conservative and prevent any potential issues as much as possible.

Cooking can involve bending over

There are many different times during cooking where you may have to bend over.

Making a loaf of bread or cooking pasta in the oven? Unless your oven is mounted up high at waist level, after opening the oven door, you will need to bend over to grab those dishes out of the oven.

Same goes with loading and unloading the bottom rack of dishwasher. You can try just dropping the plates in without bending over, but that may not work out as well as you hope.

Lastly, there is a good chance that some ingredient or cookware you need for your dish is stored in a bottom cabinet or pantry. Even worse if it is stored in the back of the bottom cabinet!

But don’t fret if this is the case for you. Instead of bending over, squatting down can allow you to reach everything. But better yet (since squatting down can sometimes be too difficult), find a helper in the kitchen to grab those things for you. Its the least they can do if you are making dinner for them!

Cooking can involve heavy lifting

Ever spend hours simmering on the stove top to create an amazing soup? Sure can be delicious. But also can be very heavy if you go to pick up the pot of soup. The heavy metal pot combined with gallons of liquid can cause you to stress or strain. Even lighter pans can get quite heavy if you are forced to hold them for a prolonged period of time.

Delicious but heavy soup
Looks delicious! But heavy…; image by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu on Unsplash

This extra exertion and strain while lifting things can cause the pressure of the eyes to increase which can potentially cause the incision to leak.

So sticking to physically lightweight ingredients or recipes using light pans or baking sheets can make it easier for you in the kitchen.

The Surface Of The Eye Will Have Extra Dry Eye And Inflammation

As quick as cataract surgery is, it still can lead to some extra irritation on the cornea and surface of your eye. This irritation also causes more inflammation to build up. This extra irritation and inflammation is felt as additional dry eye after cataract surgery.

The prescription eye drops you take after cataract surgery don’t help with this irritation. In fact, preservatives in these eye drops can potentially lengthen this dry eye recovery (but not enough to stop taking these eye drops; these prescription eye drops have far more benefit after cataract surgery).

Using preservative free artificial tears can help in the short term. And gradually this dry eye heals up over time.

Why is this dry eye important? Well, to help the eye heal up quicker, it is best to avoid things which will cause extra irritation to your eyes.

How the kitchen can irritate your eyes

Fortunately there isn’t a ton of things in the kitchen which will bother your eyes. The eyes tend to remain pretty far and safe from the cooking environment. I mean, you really don’t see people needing to wear eye protection in the kitchen. But what can cause an issue?

The two main things are

  • Hot steam
  • Oil splatter

Opening the oven with your eyes next to the door can cause the hot steam from the oven to irritate your eyes. Same thing if you are hanging over and staring at your boiling pasta water.

Being too close to the hot pain of oil can also potentially cause some of that hot oil to splash into your eyes.

Hot steam and hot oil don’t even sound remotely close to helpful. Avoid that by keeping a normal safe distance while you are cooking.

Dangers In The Kitchen

Beyond just affecting the recovery time after cataract surgery, cooking has some potential dangers which can increase after cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery will change your vision. With standard cataract surgery, vision is optimized for distance. Up close vision becomes blurry. While overall, vision becomes better because the cataract is removed, it still can take some adjusting getting used to the new vision and new prescription of the eye.

There are certain tasks in the kitchen which require good hand-eye coordination. This is especially the case when knives are involved. Chopping vegetables or carving meat is much more difficult when done just by feel. Much better to actually see where the knife is cutting. And if you aren’t yet used to the change in your vision, you run the risk of having an accident in the kitchen.

If your up close vision is blurry, pick up some reading glasses. This will prevent your vision hindering you on performing complex cooking tasks.

Also check out How To Pick The Best Reading Glasses After Cataract Surgery


In the kitchen after cataract surgery, it is important to avoid bending over and heavy lifting. This can pose a challenge and so having a helper with you can make these tasks easier. Be sure to avoid exposing to eye to hot steam and hot oil to prevent the eyes from becoming further irritated. And lastly, make sure your vision is sharp enough or corrected with reading glasses before performing delicate and dangerous tasks such as with knives. By taking a few precautions, you can continue to prepare delicious meals after cataract surgery.

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