April 6, 2023 | Cataracts

This Is How To Improve Near Vision After Cataract Surgery

By Barrett Eubanks, M.D.

This Is How To Improve Near Vision After Cataract Surgery

Everything up close is just so blurry! Wasn’t cataract surgery supposed to correct vision? And it is often surprising how much of our day involves trying to see things up close. Fortunately, there are a few good ways to allow you to see up close again.

The most common way to improve near vision after cataract surgery is via reading glasses or progressives. However, employing the technique of monovision with contact lenses or with a lasik touch-up can also be used to see up close without glasses. Finally, there are even ways to methodically work and train the eyes to see better naturally on their own without glasses.

So there are lots of options to be able to read again after cataract surgery. So let’s cover each option in depth and what it can do. But before we get to that, let’s first understand why the near vision becomes blurry after cataract surgery.

Loss Of Near Vision

Let’s talk about something that happens to everyone’s eyes at some point in their life. Presbyopia.

Now, this is a slight detour from the topic of this article (despite the fact that we’ve barely gotten started), but this helps to understand why the near vision can be blurry after cataract surgery.

Within our eye is a natural lens. This same lens later goes on in life to become a cataract and is removed with cataract surgery.

Remember when you were in your 20s and with your vision corrected (if necessary), you could see everything off in the distance and up close seamlessly? It is because of this lens. This lens was flexible and was able to change shape whenever you needed to see things up close.

How the eye focuses up close
How the eye focuses up close, image by MikeRun, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But gradually, this lens becomes less flexible. As a result, this lens has more and more difficulty changing shape and allowing you to focus up close. Your near vision becomes blurry. So, you start to wear reading glasses or progressive glasses to restore this focus range. Note: unless you are nearsighted, then you just may take off your glasses to read instead since your eyes are naturally focused up close.

This is called presbyopia. It is the loss of reading vision as we get older. (And starts to become noticeable for most starting in the 40s)

This lens eventually goes on to get cloudy and turn into a cataract. This cataract is removed through cataract surgery which brings up back to the present.

Loss Of Near Vision After Cataract Surgery

When the cataract is removed, it is replaced with a new artificial lens. This new lens has a prescription which allows it to restore the function of the old natural lens. What this also means is that if the prescription of the old natural lens was off (and glasses were necessary to correct remaining prescription), the new artificial lens can instead be selected with a goal of having zero prescription and zero or minimal glasses.

At least for distance vision…

Similar to the old natural lens and cataract before it, this new artificial lens is made out of an inflexible plastic or silicone. It is incapable of changing shape to provide seamless vision far away off in the distance and up close.

With the standard artificial cataract lens, this causes the near vision to be blurry after cataract surgery.

Note: At the time of cataract surgery, it is possible to upgrade to special cataract lenses which employ optical tricks in order to improve reading glasses. Learn more about those lenses here: Your Complete Guide Of Lenses For Cataract Surgery

But for everyone else with a standard lens, this near vision must be improved somehow.

The Classic Way To Improve Near Vision

For most, this means some form of glasses: either reading glasses or progressive glasses.

  • If you see well enough in the distance, then all you need is pair of reading glasses to throw on whenever you want to see things up close. Check out How To Pick The Best Reading Glasses After Cataract Surgery to figure out the optimal prescription.
  • If you need your distance vision sharpened up as well (because of some remaining astigmatism for instance), then look into a pair of progressive glasses. These glasses can correct your distance vision prescription when looking far away but adds reading prescription when looking down through the glasses to read.

Glasses are a very effective way of improving near vision. It can be done very quickly and cheaply. You can easily pick up a pair of reading glasses today at your local drugstore or on Reading glasses are cheap enough that you can even buy a pair for each room of your house.

But not everyone wants to wear glasses after cataract surgery. Glasses can fog when cooking or exercising. Not everyone likes the aesthetic of glasses. It can be a hassle to always try to remember your reading glasses when wanting to see things up close. So let’s look at other options.


Having two eyes allows each eye to work off each other to improve and strengthen what we see. But what if instead, we want to improve the range of what we see and read without glasses? Well then we can use our two eyes differently.

Instead of having BOTH eyes focused for the distance, ONE eye is instead corrected for up close vision. Therefore, the eyes are doing different things. One eye takes care of seeing off in the distance, the other eye takes care of seeing up close.

This is known as monovision. Sounds strange, but actually can work quite well. Many people are capable of adjusting really well to this setup. Learn more at Is My Brain Adjusting To Monovision?

Many contact lens wearers prior to cataract surgery may already have experience with monovision. And the same can be done with contact lenses after cataract surgery as well. A single contact lens placed in one eye that focuses up close may be all that’s necessary to improve the near vision.

But for those who don’t want to wear contact lenses or are bothered by the irritation from contact lenses, there is another option: Laser eye surgery such as lasik.

Lasik can be used after cataract surgery to create monovision. It allows for a permanent way to improve near vision after cataract surgery. Read more about Lasik Touch Ups After Cataract Surgery.

That’s all great. But what if you don’t want to wear glasses or contact lenses or do monovision with lasik?

Well you’re in luck. It is possible to actually improve your near vision through vision training!

Vision Training

When we look at something, our eyes send that information to the brain. It turns out the eyes are merely messengers. The brain does all the actual visual processing to tell us what we see.

And the brain does some pretty fascinating stuff. Rather than just simply spitting back the raw image to us, the brain actually does some processing to improve our vision.

And just how with repetition the brain can improve in other tasks in our life, we can improve the ability of our brain to process vision. This means better vision. Even glasses-free near vision.

When our brain processes images from our eyes, it does so in a particular pattern. (fun fact, this pattern is also commonly employed in computerized image detection algorithms as well)

By training our eyes on this pattern, we strengthen the ability of our brain to process images and see. This can not only improve what we see in the distance, but it can also allow us to read up close without glasses.

But here’s the catch, similar to weight lifting, you need to put in the work to see the gains. There is no free lunch to training vision to see better.

But good software programs exist to start your vision training program:

  • Galaxy Vision is a Free app for Apple iOS devices which combines a matching game with those special patterns to improve vision processing
  • RevitalVision is a web-based vision training program using those special patterns and is clinically proven to treat conditions such as Amblyopia


For many people, near vision is blurry after cataract surgery. Classically, this near vision is corrected with reading glasses or progressive glasses. But for those who don’t want glasses, correcting vision with monovision is a technique that is often used with contact lenses or lasik. Finally, it is possible to avoid all of that and improve what you see up close by working the brain through focused vision training.

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