Q: Why, and how long, do I have to stop wearing my contact lenses before my cataract evaluation and surgery? Can I still wear contact lenses after my cataract surgery?
A: The first step in preparation for successful cataract surgery is obtaining accurate measurements to determine the correct type and power of lens to be placed during cataract surgery. One of the essential measurement elements required involves the cornea. Contact lens wear, whether RGP or soft lenses, can alter the shape of the corneal surface. Patients therefore need to be out of contact lenses prior to having preoperative measurements for cataract surgery so that the cornea can return to its natural shape and allow for accurate measurements. If contact lens wear is not stopped, the corneal surface measurements are inaccurate and could lead to the wrong implant being placed during surgery in addition to a disappointing postoperative visual outcome. Preoperative measurements and assessments for cataract surgery involve many elements. Corneal measurements in particular help enable the surgeon to, 1) determine the correct focusing power for intraocular lens (IOL) that will be placed during surgery and, 2) determine if the patient may be a candidate for an advanced technology intraocular lens such as a toric or multifocal that can reduce dependence on eyeglasses or contacts after surgery. The length of time needed out of contact lens wear varies depending on the type of contacts and other individual considerations. For soft contact lens wearers, the general time frame of no contact lens wear prior to preoperative measurements is usually two weeks. For those who wear RGP lenses, the general time frame of no contact lens wear prior to preoperative measurements is one week for every 10 years of RGP wear. This abstinence from contact lenses preoperatively may involve temporarily wearing eyeglasses. Although the cornea usually returns to its natural state within the time frames mentioned, the process may take longer for some individuals and require them to remain contact lens free until corneal stabilization is complete. Your eye doctor will work closely with you to ensure that the timing is appropriate for your needs and a successful surgical outcome. Wearing contact lenses after you have had cataract surgery is not an issue as long as the eyes have had enough time to heal. However, depending on the lens implant, your vision needs, and the surgical outcome, you may not need contacts or glasses at all. In any event, if you still need vision correction after cataract surgery and would like to wear contact lenses for that correction, it is safe to do so after healing is complete. You and you eye doctor can make that determination.