Flying After Cataract Surgery

Dr. Gary Foster- Fort Collins & Loveland, CO

Recently I was asked a question by email about flying after Cataract Surgery (as a passenger).

Air Travel After a Cataract procedure

“Hello Dr. Foster”

How soon can I fly after cataract surgery

Flying after Cataract Surgery

“I have a question about travel. My husband will be having cataract surgery on Dec 18th.  Would it be safe for him, to travel by air on Dec 20th and then back to Denver on Dec 21st?  My husband thinks the changing air pressure, on the airplane, would damage his eye, so soon after surgery. Is he right, or is he afraid for his eye for no reason. Our grandson is graduating from collage on Dec 20th, in Albuquerque. I think, it would be real important, to both of them, if my husband could be there for our grandson.”

“Your reply would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you, so much”

Flying After Cataract Surgery

As a general rule, it is fine to fly after cataract surgery.  We can confirm that this is a good idea at your one-day post op of visit.

There are three considerations:

1. Safety of the eye at altitude,
2. Dry eye on airplanes
3. Ideal access to healthcare while he heals.

Safety of the eye at Altitude when flying after a Cataract procedure

In retinal surgery, often air is injected into the eye.  The air expands at higher altitudes and can cause pain and damage.  We do not inject air during the procedure so we do not have this problem.  As a result, it does not hurt your eye to fly after cataract surgery.

Dry Eye on Airplanes

Many feel their eyes are drier when flying.  You may need some artificial tears to keep your eyes comfortable during the flight.

Ideal Access to Healthcare

In routine cataract surgeries, we see you the day after surgery and then one to two weeks later.  As such, it is fine to travel during that time.  The exception would be if you experience some unanticipated complication where we would want to monitor your progress more closely.  If you are out of town, it would be difficult to get together quickly.  It would be rare for this to be a problem, but it is worth considering.

This response outlines the basic elements that go into flying commercially in the early postoperative period after a cataract procedure.  If I can answer any more specific questions about your circumstances on this subject, please leave a comment or contact me at my office.


  1. Colette Gibbons says:

    I had cataract surgery on Sept 3, 2014 eye is healing well just saw my doc.
    Can I fly to Germany on Oct 4, 2014. Apparently from what I’m reading here I should be fine. I will be gone for 1 1/2 month.

    Thank you, Colette

    • Colette:
      You will need to get specific direction from your doctor, but as a general rule, there would not be a problem with your plans and there are good doctors in Germany if you need to check in while there with any questions.
      I hope you enjoy Germany!
      Gary Foster

      • Colette Gibbons says:

        Thank you, I am flying to Germany its been a month and my eye is healing well. I’ve gotten a few # of Optomologist just in case I need a follow up.
        I was told to keep using my eye drops and to visit my Optomologist on my return. Any suggestion how to avoid dry eye on the plane, so it doesn’t shrivel up like a raisin. Lol! Is that even possible.

        Thank you, Colette Gibbons


        • Colette:
          I am glad you are healing quickly. Dry eye is particularly bad on extended plane trips. Artificial tears are helpful. It is also helpful to avert the air vents so they are not blowing directly on your eye. You could also take some fish oil pills if they agree with your stomach.
          God Bless,
          Gary Foster

  2. I had a cataract op a month ago and could see clearly after the op ( I was short sighted and this was rectified) now everything is blurry and I can’t even read. Very worried .
    Next week the left eye will be done and I have glaucoma and fifty percent loss of optic nerve. Are there severe risk for me ?

    • Maureen:
      If your vision was clear for distance objects in the first few weeks after surgery but now it is blurry it is possible that you have developed swelling in your retina called “cystoid macular edema” or CME. There are good medical treatments for this if you have it. Your doctor would be able to diagnosis this with a retinal exam. It would be quite impactful on your daily living functions if you have cataract surgery on your second eye before the first eye can see.

      If you have a standard intraocular lens, then it is normal that you would have blurry vision for near tasks without reading glasses.
      God Bless,
      Gary Foster