What To Do About Glasses After Cataract Surgery On One Eye

What To Do About Glasses After Cataract Surgery On One Eye

If you are like most people, you will have cataract surgery one eye at a time.

But this leads to a peculiar situation.

Cataract surgery will actually change the prescription of the eye. For many, this means distance vision without glasses can be better after cataract surgery than before.

That’s a cool perk of cataract surgery.

But because cataract surgery is frequently done one eye at a time, there is a gap after the first surgery where one eye is optimized more for distance, while the other still has a cataract and still needs glasses.

While this is usually only short term until the second eye has surgery, the imbalance in vision between eyes can still be bothersome and annoying.

But don't worry, there are a few options to get you by. In many cases, you can even reuse your own existing pair of glasses or contact lenses!

So here are the solutions to how you can get by while waiting to have the second eye corrected. Even if the second eye is going to be a long ways away.

Also add Resolving Vision Imbalance After Cataract Surgery to your reading list.

Using Your Old Glasses

If you put your glasses on, the eye that just had cataract surgery will become very blurry. After-all, the glasses were made for your previous prescription, not the new one (or lack thereof) you have after cataract surgery.

But putting the glasses on will correct the eye that hasn’t had surgery yet.

So… the glasses can still have some use.

The easiest solution is to pop out the unnecessary lens of the glasses. This allows the eye that had cataract surgery to see well while still using the glasses to correct the eye that still needs cataract surgery.

Glasses with one lens removed

The lens for the eye that just had cataract surgery can be removed from the glasses

Note: It’s best to take the pair of glasses to your optician and have them take care of it. There is a chance you can break your frames if you don’t know what you are doing.

Having glasses with one lens popped out can work, but it can look a little awkward. If you want to go the extra mile, you can even have the old prescription lens replaced with a clear lens so that the glasses still look like ordinary glasses. If it is going to be a while until you have or need cataract surgery on your second eye, this would be the preferred route to continue using your old glasses.

Problems with high prescriptions

Glasses can only do so much to fix the imbalance between the eyes. With higher prescription differences, glasses may not work.

When light passes through glasses and into the eye, it focuses on the retina in the back of the eye. The object that you are looking at forms a tiny little image on the retina.

Light focusing in the eye

Light focusing in the eye; image by Sunshineconnelly at en.wikibooks, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But the size of that image can actually change depending on the distance the glasses are sitting from the eye and the prescription of the glasses. For example, the more nearsighted prescription you have, the smaller that image is.

After light enters the glasses and prescription corrected, it still has a short distance to travel before entering the eye. During this short distance, the size of the image changes slightly.

Normally, this doesn’t cause much issue. When both eyes receive the same size image, the brain is easily able to merge those scenes together and tell you what you are looking at.

But what if the tiny images on the retina are actually different sizes between the eyes? The brain doesn’t like this and will have trouble consolidating the two images. This can result in bad eye fatigue or even double vision.

This can happen when trying to correct a large prescription difference between the eyes with glasses. For most people, the brain can only tolerate about 3.00 of prescription difference between the eyes. Anything higher then that can be problematic. (But this magic number can differ quite a bit between individuals and even how the glasses are made).

Because of this, using your old pair of glasses when your prescription is high may not work. Despite that, there isn’t much harm in trying with your old pair of glasses.

In fact, the blurry vision from the cataract may help prevent the prescription difference from becoming overly symptomatic.

Alternatives To Glasses

If your old pair of glasses aren’t working, there are really two ways to go.

Contact lenses don’t have the same issue of glasses when dealing with high prescriptions. Because contact lenses sit right on the surface of the eye, once the prescription is fixed, light immediately enters the eye. There is no short gap such as with glasses that significantly affects the size of the image.

So, instead of popping out a lens of your old glasses, you can simply use a single contact lens in the uncorrected eye.

This works great if you already wear contact lenses prior to cataract surgery.

It’s a little more challenging if you didn’t, since it is important to have contact lenses properly fitted for your eye.

If glasses or contact lenses aren’t an option, you can just simply go without anything and just use your new cataract free eye to see. If the difference between the eyes becomes too much, you can always pick up an eye patch to cover up the blurry vision.

You can even pick up different color eye patches to match your wardrobe!; Image courtesy of

Getting A New Pair Of Temporary Glasses Made

There can be times when it may be worth it to get an updated pair of glasses made to get you through until the second eye is done.

If you see well out of the eye that just had cataract surgery and your next surgery is less than 1-2 weeks, there isn’t really a need to get a new pair of glasses.

But what if you still have some astigmatism or residual prescription remaining? If that is blurring your vision enough in the eye that just had cataract surgery, it may start to limit how well you can see. Rather than struggling for a few weeks, getting a temporary updated pair of glasses can make your life easier in the short term. This is especially the case if you will be having a lengthy time between your two cataract surgeries.

In fact, after one week, the prescription of the eye can be stable enough for most people to get a decent prescription.

And when it's time to get a final prescription of glasses once the second eye is done, updating the prescription in the second eye may be all that is needed.

Surgical Solutions

If it's going to be a long while until you get your second eye treated, (perhaps you only had a cataract in one eye), and none of the above options work for you, then correcting the vision in the good eye surgically may be the solution.

  • Lasik is a very popular option to correct vision. This can especially be useful for younger patients who developed a cataract in one eye.
  • Lastly, if none of the above are good options, having too large of a prescription difference between eyes can be a good reason to have cataract surgery on the other eye (even if the cataracts are still “mild”).


The easiest solution to see for most people after cataract surgery in one eye is to pop out the lens in their old glasses. This allows both eyes to work together to see. But there are limits to how much this will work with glasses. Instead of glasses, a single contact lens can used or one can simply go without anything and wear an eye patch if needed.

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