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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107 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

    • Saif Ur Rahman says:

      Yes, it seems normal as I am going through same problem. Instead gas, my surgeon put silicon oil and after oil removal, I am also unable to see the lines straight and circles exactly round. Doctor is saying that it will take time to get my vision stabilized.

    • Bar says:

      I can tell from personal experience its normal i had the same thing but thing healed up and restored so just give it some time it can take up to a year.

  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!

    • Joan Conroy says:

      How long was it before you could get back to activities such as hiking and running?

    • Chip Constant says:

      I just underwent gas-bubble surgery Sunday 9/25 and I was wondering how your recovery was going. I am also a 57 year old male who is very active, I was actually mountain biking when I noticed my loss in peripheral vision, and was in surgery almost immediately. I also play ice hockey on occasion. Has your vision improved? How long before the vision in your eye was semi-normal? Do you think you will need corrective lenses for that eye?

    • Denise Jolly says:

      Hi – so sorry to hear of your experience. I have had a similar thing happen to me and underwent a vitrectomy 5 days ago. How is your sight now and have you made a full recovery. Best wishes

  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.

    • Susan G says:

      I had surgery May 10, 2016 and when I went back after 3 weeks retina attachéd but Optic nerve was lake or dead. After 2 other Drs for 2nd opinion, they say I have Ishemic Optic Neuropathy and they say No hope to regain any eye sight in that eye. I have suffered extreme depression and anxiety. We can just pray for a cure that one day the vision can be restored. May God Bless everyone who is going through this surgery,

  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?

    • david says:

      I had the oil removed and a small ring remained as well. That was almost a year ago and it remains. It only pops up when I lower my head (like the bubble in a level). The doctor said that sometimes they can’t get all the oil out and that it can be removed with another surgery, which I have ruled out.

  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 ?

    • dad says:

      My son has had multiple surgeries for detachments and scar tissue. We are having hopefully our final surgery in November to remove the oil and take a tiny bit of scar tissue. His vision is very poor in that eye, due to retina damage and the loss of lens in his eye. I was wondering if when the oil is removed is there any improvement in vision normally? I am sorry you are going through this and best of luck going forward.

      As far as the discharge, this has happened several times to my son and we started a routine of washing his eye out with saline solution. Not just drops in the eye ,but lifting up the top eye lid and you can see into the back if his eye socket and we keep that cleaned, that has made a difference.

    • Lala says:

      Hostettse- I have had the same 3 virectomies as you – gas 1st then scleral buckle and then oil 2 weeks ago. I am experiencing wavy lines and very distorted vision I keep eye closed most of the time and am fearful of driving with one eye. It is no fun and not sure when I will get oil out and wonder what I will see after since now is a blur. Keep in touch

  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.

    • Cheryl says:

      I have had three vitreous surgeries since June. In June I had a hemorrhage. Three months later a second hemorrhage as the scar from the first had a hole next to it and the third was a detached retina. He also had to do cataract surgery at that time. I am legally blind in that eye and must wear a patch over the bad eye to read. My bad eye is dilated twice the size of my good eye so light balance is also a factor. I have some pain on occasion in that eye and feel confused sometimes depending on the light or darkness in the room. I feel off kilter or unbalanced with this vision change. I can sympathize with you. I am very frustrated.

  9. Adria says:

    I have a few typos on my comment. I will list them here to help understand my confusing butter finger mistyped comment. Agood is a good. Was is was. Lit should be lot. Loom is look. Darkfrom is dark from.

  10. 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?

    • Sue Hollar says:

      I believe that is quite normal. What you see ‘wobbling’ is actually the gas bubble moving. It’s like looking at a water bubble sloshing around. It will get smaller and smaller and eventually dissipate completely. I’m surprised ypur doctor didn’t explain this yo you. Forgive the poor yyping but I am going yhrpugh the same thing Had my partially detached retina reattached yesterday and am stull in my heads down phase!

  11. Susan G says:

    My retina had detached and I went to Eye Center South in Dothan, Al , they asked if I had been in an accident I said no nothing. They sent me to Dr Warren Thompson, Dothan, AL, He said we must do surgery tomorrow. So May 10, 2016 I had surgery. Surgery went well with gas bubble placed. I was told as it goes down I would begin having some sight, went back to Dr and he said the Optic nerve appeared to be pale, I asked what does that mean and he said it looks like you had a stroke in the eye during the surgery. I said what, fe said that pisses me off that gas only happened one time before and the lady was 86 years old. I am 55 years old and considered myself in fairly good health as far as I knew. Now I am going on the 5th month with no vision in my right eye. After being told that pisses the Dr off, I went for a 2nd opinion with another Dr would did request all kind of tests to make sure I was healthy.
    Eye Drs are in the business of fixing our eye sight not just to say oh well, I am pissed. I am praying to find some eye Drs who might offer something to help with the vision. This has been the most frustrating ordeal I have ever been through.if there are some compassionate eye Drs out there I would like to find one!

  12. Dean a Laterza says:

    Had buckle surgery May 2nd , been a nightmare ever since, first had bleeding behind the eye which delayed healing. Then I have a big grey cloudy floater taking up half my vision, but surgeon and regular eye doc blow me off saying my surgery was a success because I can see 20-20 with correction. I literally see 20-20 about 10% of the time because the floater also moves whenever it feels like it. I dont know what to do, Ive heard I can try to go for another surgery but there are complications. Do I just just accept not legitimately seeing out of the eye for the rest of my life, or do I look for another opinion which Im sure would be expensive and may not even help.

  13. Hannah says:

    Thanks everybody for sharing your experience! I had a retinal reattachment surgery on September 13th, with gas and cryotherapy. I’d to wait for 14 days until the end of the gas. During this time everything was very difficult, I was in pain and constantly with nausea. Couldn’t really sleep due the position. My doctor also made two lazer (the first was very painful).
    22 days after the surgery my vision is blurry. This can be permanent but it’s still early to know. Until few days ago I was seeing “floaters” but now it’s gone. My eye is dry, scratching and sometimes with some pain. I’m using eye drops. Good news is that my retina is retached and I can fly.
    Until my doctor was absolutely sure that my retina was retached I was seeing him 3 or 4 times per week.
    I’m a 34y female.
    My best wishes for all! Regards from Brazil!

  14. Ronald Marchbanks says:

    Had retina detachment with buckle and retina tear 9 days ago. Now I am feeling something like maybe a stitch when my eye moves. Don’t know if stitches should still be there.

  15. AnonymissD says:

    I see comments telling about YOUR stories…with no responses to help the initial poster and their concerns. I have similar concerns and read through several and saw NOTHING helpful.

    • FCI says:

      AnonymissD Here at FCI Ophthalmics we cannot comment on personal health questions and concerns. We hope that everyone that comments here is able to get help from their doctors and we leave this comment section open so people can read each others experiences.

  16. Wycliffe Okumu Wando says:

    I had a scleral buckle in Nov 2015 but I still cannot see todate.
    Any hope for regaining the vision?

    • Wycliffe Okumu Wando says:

      Please link me to an institution or individual who can assist my condition.
      I live in Kisumu city, Kenya

  17. Abd Smd says:

    Please kindly advice me on this as it’s urgent. I am currently studying the Czech Republuc but recently I went to Germany for a visit and woke up the next day to discover that I can’t see at all in the middle of my left eye and can’t see at all below the left eye. I also discover that some black bubbles are moving in the eye, sometimes these bubbles go away and the blurry vision becomes clear. I went to a doctor who told me that my pupil is swollen and there’s high probability that my retina is detached. She said a retina detachment surgery might be needed but adviced that the issue is urgent but I should go back to the Czech Republic where I have my insurance.
    On getting here, the doctors at the Nemocnice Motol aren’t treating this case as urgent at all. First I was asked to do a series of test with everything showing negative except for the test for Tuberculosis which shows some small sign of positivity. I was told that this sign might be even due to vaccination against tuberculosis so they aren’t sure if it’s Tuberculosis, so I need another test to confirm it. On getting back to the ophthalmologist, to my greatest surprise the doctor told me that there’s further test that she has to do before we start treatment and the machine is currently faulty. I have to wait till 22/11/2016 (2months after my first visit to the hospital and about 3 months after noticing the problem with the eye).
    The concern is that the doctors here aren’t even really talking about retina detachment and they don’t even see this as urgent. I have certainly regretted ever stepping my feet in this country for I have never seen this kind of non-challant atttitude from my country’s medical system which is regarded as third world. The doctors usually don’t speak English, she always seems clueless as to what the issue is.
    Please I need your advice on this and what to do as I am totally helpless now. The nemocnice motol hospital is regarded as the best in this country.

  18. Steve Pedas says:

    Had buckle & retinoxepy Jul. 22. Blurred vision and double vision since. Got glasses Nov. 1 and focus is much better, but double vision remains. Can see fine out of one eye or the other, but not both. Eye gets exhausted by noon time. I am clumsy with hand coordination, balance is a little off. Definitely a strain on the brain, but I am trying to cope. Hoping for the best. It’s not what you don’t have, it’s what today and tomorrow bring. Did not stop me from seeing the supermoon!

  19. Merry anne go says:

    My husband had a vtreous hemorrhage last aug 9, 2016 on his left eye. We were referred to a retinal specialist and was advised to observe the eye for the eyes have the capability to absorb the blood for 1-2 months. But after four days his sight became blurry and can only perceive light so immediately we went to the doctr. He found out that the bleeding did not stop and avastin injction is needed. And scheduled my husband for an operation. There are further tests for my husband for the doctor is puzzled what causes my husband’s eye nerves to bleed bec. His right eye is already blind 3 years ago.

    Cbc is normal but thanks to the cardiologist he advised us to consult with a hematologist bec my husband is nt diabetic and not hyperensive. Further lab results showed that my husband’s pt and ptt are prolonged so he cannot be operated until cleared by the hematologist. Vit k injection done, no improvement . Then plasma transfusion done before the second sched for operation but pt and ptt did not improved so his operation was postponed again.

    Then we were referred to slmc in manila for it has the facilities needed fr further test the coagulation assay. We went to the hospital on oct. 13, 2016 and the Hematologist fr the said hospital also did pt and ptt mixing together with the coagulation assay. Results showed that my husband have pt and ptt inhibitors so he has factors 11 and 12 deficency. We were referred to a rheumatologist and found out after series of tests that my husband is moderately positive in lupus anticoagulant and others so possible of aps or antiphospholipid syndrome. Immediately he was treated with steroids and the ptt became normal and the ptt showed small improvement so plaquenil was added and the pt improved.after three months of continuous tests and treatment , finally my husband was cleared for his operation.

    Immediately he was operated on nov. 7, 2016. We were thankful for we were afraid abt the retinal detachment caused by the blood in his eyes. For now he is on his second week recuperating fr the surgery , but still his whole eye is very red and has a small bruise on the lowerpart of his upper eyelid and on the side near the nose. He already had 2 followup checks and according to the doctor he saw some patches indicating that there is still bleeding inside but hoping itwill not be much because of the silicone oil.

    Its so painful to see my husband who needs to maintain face down posture and cannot yet see but only a slight light entering his eye bec he doesnt have lens yet.

    Anyone who have same situation like him? It really is frustrating to be in this situation. Cannot see and body pains. Every possible position ive searched i tried first and if comfortable i advised him to try. And what i fear most is the bleeding. We just need to trust and hold unto God at the same time continuing his steroids and plaquenil.

  20. Nan brooks says:

    wife had a small tear in her Retina the specialist said all is great she complains of pain around the eye really painful , could that be from reading doing work at office or what she had the surgery a little over a week ago. What is going on Please