What to Expect After Your Retinal Detachment Surgery

The retina is the light-sensing membrane that captures and transmits images to the brain. Most retinal detachments experienced by individuals are originally caused by a small tear or hole in this sensitive retina wall. Often due to thinning of the retina or shrinking of the vitreous gel within the eye over time, retinal detachments cause vision loss that may become permanent if not treated quickly and effectively.  Often affecting those individuals who are middle-aged or older, retinal tears and detachments are most common in nearsighted individuals and those with a genetic predisposition.

Prompt treatment of a retinal detachment is vital to the prevention of permanent vision loss. Scleral buckling, pneumatic retinopexy and vitrectomies are the most common treatments of retinal detachment. These treatments help press the retina against the wall of the eye and hold the tissues in place so that they can heal. Surgical retinal reattachment surgery is conducted through a quick one-and-a-half to two-hour surgery.


Although every surgery comes with its risk of complications, most retinal detachments come with infrequent and treatable complications, which include: bleeding under the retina, cataracts, recurrence, or infection.

Going Home after Surgery

Retinal detachment surgery is normally followed by a short recovery at the hospital before returning home. Patients can often return to normal activity one to two weeks after surgery. Traveling should be avoided for some time, and increases in altitude should be avoided until cleared by the surgeon.

Pain and Eye Protection

After a retinal detachment surgery is performed the eye may be inflamed, sore, and swollen for some time. Although very little pain is expected after surgery, pain medications are often sent home with the patient to aid in post-surgical pain control. Eye drops and an eye patch may be necessary aftercare to keep the eye moist, sanitized, and protected. A shield may also be used to avoid accidental pressure on the eye during sleep. Follow-up visits will be scheduled for the day after surgery and again for regular checkups over the next two to three months depending on patient progress. Some discharge is expected during the healing process, but the eye should be monitored for unusual drainage.

Care will need to be taken when showering not to get soap in the eye. Some procedures require a gas bubble to be placed in the eye during surgery to help keep the retina pressed up against the inner wall of the eye. Patients may be asked to position their head facing down to aid in the effect of this pressure bubble. This positioning may be necessary for one to two weeks after surgery.


The first week after surgery should be reserved for rest and slow movement. Excessive close concentration or TV watching should be avoided to prevent eye strain and further discomfort. Some patients may experience sensitivity to light after surgery. Activity can often be resumed after a month, but heavy lifting over 20 pounds and strenuous activities should be avoided while the eye heals.

Driving should also be avoided until vision improves and stabilizes. Initial depth perception and field of view is compromised after surgery and care should be taken before patients get back behind the wheel. Sedentary jobs may be returned to between ten and fourteen days after surgery, but more active jobs should be cleared by the surgeon before resumed.


Surgical treatment for retinal detachment is successful in over 90 percent of cases. If the retinal reattachment is a success, the patient will have some degree of vision restored. Depending on the condition of the retina, a varying degree of reading and traveling vision may be restored, and oftentimes patients can expect a full recovery of their vision.

A period of healing is necessary after surgery before patients will begin to see an improvement in their vision. This improvement should be expected to begin two weeks after surgery, and within six weeks postoperative vision improvement should be complete. The retina may continue to heal for a year or more, and it may take months for vision to stabilize after surgery.

Retinal detachment procedures are highly successful, come with few complications, and are imminent when a detachment occurs to help restore vision before blindness becomes permanent. Recovery is quick and requires a short period of rest and care while the retina heals and vision improves.

Related posts:

  1. Using Vitrectomy Lenses and Scleral Buckling for Retinal Detachment Cases
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83 Responses to What to Expect After Your Retinal Detachment Surgery

  1. JAN says:

    I was trying to read in bed and thought my bedroom light blew out. Instead It was my right eye. Totally black.
    Got to the ophthalmologist the next morning and was told my retina detached. He called retina surgeon and got me right in. The diagnoses was detached retina. I had pars plana vitrectomy FOCAL laser for detached retina. He put gas in the eye.
    Now 3 weeks later stitches desolved and gas bubble gone. However everything is distorted with the eye. I see curves on straight items. Just wondering if this is Normal.July 7,2016

  2. Phil says:

    My left eye underwent emergency surgery for a torn retina on July 23 2016. I had first seen dozens of dark grey dots/specks in my left eye on July 17th and on July 18th been diagnosed with a Vitreous Tear and at that time the retina was still attached.
    I was informed that there is no treatment for a vitreous tear and that the floaters should gradually decrease over months. Many dark grey/black specks or floaters were still present.

    Eight days after first seeing dots/specks/floaters the retina began to detach and was seen by me as a blob or bubble encroaching on my vision from the corner which got worse over night. Early the next morning I went to my optometrist for another OPTOS machine scan and the doctor confirmed that the retina had become detached and that I was in need of immediate surgery to save the retina from tearing completely away…something to avoid at all costs!

    Within hours I was in surgery and the reattachment went well.
    I used a positioning chair to keep my head down(so much easier than resting head on chin!)for the first week. The gas bubble in my eye will get smaller as the weeks progress but at this point it as if looking through water. Surgeon says that I need to sleep on my side for another few weeks. No air travel or mt heights(stay under 1500 ft)for at least a month.

    The prospect for full vision recovery in my left eye is good and that’s reassuring but looking through the gas bubble is disconcerting and I tend to keep my left eye shut most of the time. I am a 57 year old male in good health, I hike, bike, paddle etc. Looking ahead I am fortunate I was near emergency services on the day of detachment! I’m not a doctor but I would urge anyone seeing an sudden increase in floaters or dark dots to go to your doctor right away, don’t wait!

  3. M A Awal says:

    My wife went under a vitreo surgery six months ago at her right eye (retinal detachment) and she has lost her vision.Last month she met 3 doctors in India for to get treatment but everyone showed less hope so we came back.My question is if there are any treatment let us know.

  4. craig Krafcheck says:

    Has detached retina surgery on right eye and had oil vv. gas bubble since I fly a lot and needed to get back to work quickly. The day after the oil surgery removal I noticed a bubble or like a black O ring in eye floating around. When asking Dr. they said that happens and I can wait for it to disappear or go back into the third surgery to have it removed.
    Two questions: does this happen often with oil that I does not get all removed and secondly what are the chances the bubble disappears without surgeryy and how long?

  5. Stacey hostettse says:

    I am 27 years old and since April I have had 6 eye surgeries. 1 laser , 1 cataract , and 4 virectomys . My retinal surgeon did gas the first time, buckle and gas 2ND , oil 3 rd , then cataract got bad so that had to be removed then last week I got an oil change and he reattached everything. This has been such a hard process. My head hurts all the time, I have nasty discharge from my eye , I feel like I want to rip my eye out. And of course no vision in that eye. I have yet to find anyone who has had this problem as bad as mine. Anyone who had multiple detachments ever finally recover ?

  6. Twilla king says:

    I had a detached retina with a tear, I had surgery on July 16,2016. They put the gas bubble in, after a few weeks I had a bubble that I could see in my eye moving around which is very annoying and makes it hard o see at times. The Dr said that it hadn’t attached & was leaking so told me to come back in a week & would probably do surgery again,when I returned he took less than 3 minutes looking at it & out of the room he went ,never got to ask him anything, receptionist said to come back in 2 weeks,so time is coming up in 4 days! The past 2 days I have been having little bubbles coming up in my eye around the big bubble does anyone know if this is normal ? Right now I have one big bubble & three others about the size of a pencil eraser in my eye ,can’t see very annoying!!!

  7. andy says:

    Jon Jenkins – the bluroness is how your vision should be and most of the time is correctable – yet the waviness is a sign of something not right – waviness almost always caused by something in the eye causing distortion – for me 8 months after initial scleral buckle I had waviness come back gradually and it was due to healing/scar tissue behind retina detatching it again – had 2nd surgery with gas bubble 6 weeks ago and vision back to decent but blurry but waviness totally gone as they took the scar tissue out that was pushing retina back out

  8. Adria says:

    I detached my retina at age 25 from trauma. While playing with an exercise bungee cord, I managed to thwack myself in the left eye, and nearly hit my other eye. for agood week, my left side of my face looked like the bride of Frankenstein and the right side looked like the little Rascals dog with a ring around it’s eye (from the marking of the bungee cord hitting me under my right eye). I waa very sensitive to light afterwards. In fact, driving to my eye appointment, I wore 2 hats, a hood, and 2 sunglasses. Despite all the eye gear, I still was blinded by the light and went to the building next to the eye appt building to ask for directions to where I was supposed to go. They handed me a sympathy peice of chocolate and pointed out the right building to go to next door. I remember also whenever I would go from a light place (from outside) to a dark place (inside), I would see static, like a static tv screen for 5 minutes until my damaged eye adjusted to the light change in the room. I had the gas bubble surgery. Afterwards, I felt like my world was turned upside down and twisted inside out.I felt frustrated, distorted, vulnerable, and depressed after surgery. The fact that I loved to do art and have autism didn’t help matters. However, I am fortunate that the surgery was successful and have adapted to the vision changes. Took me about 3 years to adjust or get used to the vision change. A few things that helped me out, puck lights that you can stick onto a wall anywhere or motion light detectors/ night lights do wonders. I also would mark things with glow in the dark tape to help me with land marks such as outlets in dark basements/garages. I have to have my sunglasses. Sometimes, if I’m having glare/double vision problems while driving at night, I will cover my left eye and that helps me see better for night driving. I tell people now that I see fireworks every night when I drive. I also do or learned to do a lit of things by feel. I can walk down the stairs, open refrigerator doors and prepare food, or even brush my teeth in the dark with feeling my way around. One has to be patient , slow, and cautious when feeling your way through the dark. I noticed shadows changed after my retina…shadows help us see the position of objects around us, so my sense of where things were was really off kilter and made things loom confusing or appear differently in than darkfrom what I perceived or thought I was seeing after surgery. my other senses hearing and touch were accentuated. A slight scratching sound of a fingernail scratching a bathroom counter sounded like it was done by a microphone and echoed unlike before. For toucH, I remember wearing basketball shorts with a drawstring and being totally spoofed when I felt the drawstring rub softly against me after I had leaned close to a bathroom sink countertop not realizing it. I will often turn on the light if my eye plays tricks on me in the dark just to make sense of things. I tell people if you want a $10,000 visual trip on acid for the rest of yoyr life, detach your retina.

  9. George Cheeseman says:

    A hole in my retina was repaired 5 days ago and a gas bubble put in. My vision is blurred as expected but there is also a sense the eye ball is wobbling. Is this normal or an indicator of a problem?

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