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Cataract surgery is the most common ophthalmological surgical procedure, and it is predicted that the number of surgeries will increase significantly in the future. However, little is known about the recovery after surgery. The first aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence, severity and duration of pain and other ocular discomfort symptoms experienced after cataract surgery. The other objectives were to identify the factors associated with lower postoperative patient satisfaction and to measure the effect of cataract surgery on patients’ health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and visual function in everyday life. The study design was a prospective follow-up study. The course of the recovery and the presence of ocular symptoms were evaluated by interviewing the patients via a questionnaire at 1 day, 1 week, 6 weeks and one year after surgery The visual functioning in everyday life was measured with Visual Functioning Index VF-7 and Catquest-9SF-questionnaires and furthermore the HRQoL was measured with the 15D-instrument before surgery and at 12 months after surgery. The patients returned the questionnaires by mail and were interviewed in the hospital on the day of the surgery. The same patients filled-in all the questionnaires. The patient reports were used to collect the data on medical history. A total of 303 patients were approached at Kuopio University Hospital in 2010–2011 and of these 196 patients were eligible and willing to participate, with postoperative data being available from 186 (95%) patients. A systematic review article was included in the study procedure and it revealed the wide range in the reported incidence of postoperative ocular pain. Some of the identified randomized controlled studies reported no or only minor pain whereas in some studies significant pain or pain lasting for several weeks has been described in more than 50% of the study patients. In the present study setting, pain was reported by 34% during the first postoperative hours and by approximately 10% of patients during the first six weeks after surgery. During the early recovery in the hospital, only a minority of the patients reporting pain were provided with pain medication. The ocular discomfort symptoms such as itchiness, burning, foreign-body sensation and tearing were common both before (54%) and after surgery (38–52%). These symptoms can also be described as painful symptoms and are often difficult to distinguish from ocular pain. The symptoms are also typical of ocular surface disease, and some patients may benefit from the postoperative administration of tear substitutes. The patients reporting postoperative ocular symptoms were less satisfied with the treatment outcome at 12 months after surgery (p = 0.001) compared to the patients who experienced no symptoms. Those patients reporting less disability in visual functioning before surgery were more satisfied than patients with more reported disability. The HRQoL improved significantly after cataract surgery (p = 0.002). However, when compared to an age-and gender-standardized control population, in cataract subjects the HRQoL remained slightly worse both before and at 12 months after surgery.