Surgery for Retinal Detachment: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

Detached retina

You have had surgery to fix a retinal detachment. Your doctor may also have fixed a tear in your retina.

Your eye doctor may put drops in your eye to prevent infection and keep the pupil from opening wide or closing. You will also use these drops at home. You may have to wear a patch or shield over the eye for a day or more. You may have some pain in your eye for a few days after the surgery. Your eye may be swollen, red, or tender for several weeks.

If your doctor used a gas bubble to flatten your retina during surgery, you may have to keep your head in a special position for a few days or longer. Your doctor will give you special instructions about this.

You will need 2 to 4 weeks to recover before returning to your normal activities.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • Allow the eye to heal. Don't do things where you might move your head. This includes moving quickly, lifting anything heavy, or doing activities such as cleaning or gardening.
  • You will probably need to take 2 to 4 weeks off from work. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • You may drive when your vision allows it. If you are not sure, ask your doctor.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • You will need to use eyedrops for up to 6 weeks.

Ice and elevation

  • Put ice or a cold pack on your eye for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Other instructions

  • You can shower and wash your hair and face. But don't get any soap in your eye. You may want to use a face cloth when you wash your face. Some people wear swimming goggles.
  • Wear sunglasses during the day. You may have to wear an eye patch or shield for a few days.
  • If your doctor used a gas bubble to hold the retina in place, keep your head in a certain position for most of the day and night for 1 to 3 weeks after the surgery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions.
    • Do not lie on your back. The bubble will move to the front of the eye and press against the lens instead of the retina.
    • Airplane travel is dangerous. This is because the change in altitude may cause the gas bubble to expand and increase the pressure inside the eye.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of an eye infection, such as:
    • Pus or thick discharge coming from the eye.
    • Redness or swelling around the eye.
    • A fever.
  • You have new or worse eye pain.
  • You have vision changes.
  • You see new flashes of light.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You see new floaters.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: March 3, 2017