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Precautions With Yard Work After Cataract Surgery

Precautions With Yard Work After Cataract Surgery

The grass is greener on the other side…of cataract surgery that is! Getting your cataracts removed and replaced with a nice clear artificial lens truly allows you to appreciate the vibrant colors in your backyard. But hold up before you start to get out working in your garden or yard.

Performing yard work comes with a high risk of getting debris in the eye. This can potentially increase the risk of an infection. There is also a lot of bending over to tend to your plants; something that should be avoided immediately after cataract surgery. But there are safe ways to perform your yard work.

Using protective goggles, avoiding sweat, dirt and debris are just some of the ways that can allow you to perform yard work while you are healing up from cataract surgery.

It’s A Wild World Outdoors

If you want to completely keep your eyes clean, than you shouldn’t go outdoors. But staying in the house can cause you to have cabin fever! Plus, weeds aren't just going to de-weed themselves.

So, when doing yard work outside, there should be a great emphasis on keeping the eyes safe and clean.

Really this is good advice for ALL the time, but rings especially true for the first few weeks after cataract surgery. Once you get beyond the first few weeks, still good to take precautions, but the risk of anything derailing your recovery from cataract surgery drops.

Infection

You see, cataract surgery is a surgery. And as with most surgeries, cataract surgery comes with a risk of infection. It’s rare, it happens less than 0.02%, but even rare things can still happen.

If bacteria make their way into the eye and start to grow, this bacteria can damage sensitive structures within our eye such as the retina.

So there are a few ways to prevent bacteria from causing infection:

  • Betadine antiseptic is used to clean the eyelids around the eye before cataract surgery (since normal skin bacteria growing in non-normal places can cause an infection)
  • Antibiotics are used after surgery and more commonly these days also used during surgery
  • After surgery, prevent bacteria from getting into the eye

Your role

While you don’t really have control over the skin prep prior to cataract surgery or the antibiotics used during surgery, you do have control over 1. taking your antibiotic eye drops and 2. keeping the eye clean to prevent extra bacteria from getting into the eye.

You see, infection prevention doesn’t end once the micro incisions are sealed up after cataract surgery. These incisions are created to be watertight without any sutures or stitches. This allows for a quick procedure and a very quick recovery.

But even though these incisions are watertight, there is a very small potential for fluid to leak out within the first week after cataract surgery. This is the reasons for activity restrictions after cataract surgery - to prevent this leaking.

And if there is bacteria on the surface of the eye, this bacteria can potentially make its way into the eye through a small (even if very temporary) leak.

Where Is Bacteria Found Doing Yard Work?

Well, pretty much everywhere! Nature isn’t exactly sterile.

Dirt contains bacteria. Activities such as pulling weeds, raking leaves, mulching or planting plants and flowers can kick up extra dirt into your eyes.

Wear safety glasses to keep dirt out of the eyes! Safety glasses are ESPECIALLY important if you are using any equipment which can fling debris at your eyes. Think mowing, weed whacking, using a powered trimmer. Essentially, use safety glasses when you are using any yard work equipment to prevent high speed projectiles from causing damage to your eyes. And this goes for anytime, not just after cataract surgery.

Doing yard work can also kick up a sweat. (especially true in the heat of the day). Sweat can drip bacteria from your forehead into your eyes. Labor intensive activities such as trimming hedges or pruning trees, clearing debris or pushing a heavy lawnmower around can make you sweat more than usual.

Wear a headband to keep any sweat out of your eyes! Or just take it easy out in the hot sun.

Next Step: Prevent The Cataract Incision From Leaking

OK great, we are keeping bacteria from getting into the eye. Now we want to also decrease the possibility of tiny leaks through the cataract incision.

This watertight cataract incision is a barrier for the water inside the eye from leaking out. But pressure fluctuations inside the eye can cause this water to leak out.

There are two main things which can increase pressure fluctuations inside the eye

  • The most significant one is heavy lifting or overexertion. Think picking up a heavy lawnmower and moving it around to mow the lawn. This will cause you to strain as you pick it up.
  • The second one is bending over. Bending over will cause blood to rush to your head and can increase the pressure of the eye. A large amount of yard work activities will involve bending over! Planting flowers, pulling weeds, watering plants, trimming bushes. Instead of bending over for those activities, invest in a good garden kneeler seat.

If the yard work you need to do seems too borderline to avoid those issues, take a week off. Your garden should survive until you get further out from cataract surgery.

Planting

Gardening can be fun, but can also involve lots of bending over; image by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Additional Notes About Debris

Preventing infection is all well and good, but there are even more benefits to keeping debris out of the eyes. It helps the surface of the eye heal up.

Many people after cataract surgery will have some extra irritation, achiness or dryness to their eye. Cataract surgery will cause some extra inflammation to build up on the surface of the eye. And the eye drops used after cataract surgery will also contribute a small amount to this irritation.

In general, keeping the eye protected from additional irritants will help allow the eye to heal quicker and get it feeling comfortable faster.

Again, this goes back to protecting the eyes when doing yard work. Simply wearing safety glasses or sunglasses while doing yard work can keep dirt, dust, debris, pollen, and even small flying insects from getting into the eye.

Summary

Yard work exposes your eye to dirt, sweat, pollen, bugs. Vigorous activity and heavy lifting, such as mowing the lawn or bending over pulling weeds can put extra stress on the tiny cataract incision and increase the potential for leaks. By protecting the eyes and even taking it easy, you can keep everything healthy.

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