March 11, 2022 | Cataracts

This Is Your Vision Before And After Cataract Surgery

By Barrett Eubanks, M.D.

This Is Your Vision Before And After Cataract Surgery

After cataract surgery one can have a pretty remarkable improvement in vision. But just how remarkable? There are actually a variety of ways that cataract surgery can improve vision. Even more than just sharpening up your vision.

Before cataract surgery vision will be blurry and you can have glare and trouble seeing in dimly lit settings. After cataract surgery, however, you will notice dramatic improvements not only in vision, but also in colors and light. Cataract surgery also has the cool perk of being able to get you out of glasses.

So yes! There are many benefits to cataract surgery. Here is exactly what you can expect of your vision both before and after cataract surgery.

What Is Vision Like Before Cataract Surgery?

Cataracts cause more than blurry vision. There is actually a wide variety of symptoms caused by cataracts:

  • Blurry vision
  • Glare and / or difficulty driving at night
  • Poor ability to see contrast, such as in a dark or dimly lit environment
  • Change in perception of colors
  • Change in the glasses prescription of the eye
  • Double vision

Of course, the most common symptom that people have is blurry vision. Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye. As this lens gets cloudy, light has a harder time passing through. Because we use light to see things, this cloudiness makes things more blurry. Details become much harder to make out.

This cloudiness also impairs are ability to see things in low light environments. Cataracts block light and individuals with cataracts often find they need to shine more light on objects to see them.

Blurriness from cataracts
Blurriness from cataracts; image by Dan Morris on Unsplash / modified from original

But blurry vision isn’t the only symptom people notice. There are types of cataracts that cause a very high amount of scatter of light; especially when lights are shining in the eye. This causes lots of difficulty with glare and this makes it more difficult to see at night. Subsequently, driving at night is often the first activity which is given up once cataracts start to develop.

Glare at night
Glare at night; image by Ludwig Sebastian Micheler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These symptoms make routine daily activities more difficult. For example, it can be more difficult to read, drive a car or perform many more activities. This vision impairment progresses until it becomes too much to deal with and requires cataract surgery to fix.

Vision After Cataract Surgery

How you see after cataract surgery is dramatically different than beforehand. And in fact, you don’t have to wait long to see the improvements.

One of the first things noticed after cataract surgery is a rapid improvement in light and color. Many people with cataracts don’t realize the deterioration the cataract is having on these aspects of vision.

This is especially the case with color perception. The most common type of cataract imparts a yellow-orange-brown tint to your surroundings. But because this happens gradually and because it typically happens to both eyes at the same time, it is very difficult to notice that the perception of colors has changed. That is, until the cataracts are removed through cataract surgery. Once the cataract is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens, colors become more vibrant. You notice much more colors including blues and purples that you just weren’t seeing before.

But alongside the improvement in color is the improvement in light. Everything will appear much brighter! While this does mean you may want to wear sunglasses when you go outside, it also means that you are able to see much better in low light and dimly lit environments.

Full colors and clarity
Full colors and clarity; image by Dan Morris on Unsplash
Blurriness from cataracts for reference
Blurriness from cataracts for reference

Finally, after cataract surgery, you will notice improvement in what you can actually see (or visual acuity - how well you can read the eye chart). You will notice a sharpness and clarity that you haven’t noticed in quite some time. While improvements in color and light are nice, this is the real reason to go through cataract surgery. Sharpening up your vision essentially allows you to see again. It restores your ability to do activities that cataracts may have prevented you from doing.

But there is another cool benefit to cataract surgery: it can actually get you out of glasses.

Getting Out Of Glasses With Cataract Surgery

Many people go into cataract surgery requiring glasses and come out of it being able to see without correction!

For many, cataract surgery sharpens up the ability to see off in the distance. But reading glasses will still be required to see up close. The distance vision becomes exceptionally sharp if astigmatism is also corrected at the time of cataract surgery with lasers or with special premium toric lenses (see also This Is The Best Cataract Surgery For Astigmatism).

However there are two ways cataract surgery can be used to get out of glasses for mostly everything (if not completely).

  • Monovision (or mini-monovision). With this technique, one eye is corrected during cataract surgery to sharpen up the distance vision. This eye by itself won’t be able to see up close, so the other eye is corrected for computer and reading vision. Between both eyes, the full range of vision is covered. Typically it may take a month or more to fully adjust to monovision.
  • Premium or “lifestyle" artificial lenses such as trifocal lenses. Instead of having the eyes perform separate tasks, a special lens is used which allows for each eye to see the full range of vision. These particular lenses work best for healthy eyes and do come with some night-time vision symptoms to adjust to over time.

These two methods both have their pros and their cons. Ultimately the preferred approach is tailored to each person’s visual needs and demands. A discussion with your cataract surgeon will determine the optimal way to correct your vision the best after cataract surgery.


Cataract surgery will lead to dramatic improvement in vision. And not just improvement in our ability to see details. Cataracts cause a wide variety of symptoms and all of these symptoms resolve following cataract surgery. In addition, cataract surgery has the remarkable ability to correct vision and get out of glasses for just about everything! An impressive procedure indeed.

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