Vitrectomy is a surgery to remove the vitreous gel from the middle of your eye. Vitreous gel (also called vitreous humor) is a thick, colorless, gel-like fluid that fills the large space in the middle of the eye, behind the lens. It helps the eyeball maintain its shape.
During surgery, the doctor used small tools to remove the vitreous gel. (After a while, the eye makes new fluid that fills in the space again.) Then the doctor may have treated eye problems, such as a retinal detachment, a vitreous hemorrhage (bleeding in the eye), scar tissue on the retina, or tears or holes in the macula, an important part of the retina. The retina is the layer of nerve tissue at the back of the eye.
At the end of the surgery, the doctor may have injected an oil or gas bubble into the eye. It lightly presses the retina against the wall of the eye. You will need to keep your head in a certain position for most of the day and night while the eye heals. If an oil bubble is used, you will need another surgery to remove the oil after the eye has healed.
After the surgery, your eye may be swollen, red, or tender for several weeks. You might have some pain in your eye and your vision may be blurry for a few days after the surgery. You will need 2 to 4 weeks to recover before you can do your normal activities again. It may take longer for your vision to get back to normal.
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?
- Rest when you feel tired.
- Allow the eye to heal. Don't do things that might cause you to move your head. This includes moving quickly, lifting anything heavy, or doing activities such as cleaning or gardening.
- If your doctor used an oil or gas bubble to hold the retina in place, keep your head in a certain position for a few days or longer after the surgery. Make a plan for this part of your recovery, because it will be hard to do some daily activities. Your doctor will give you specific instructions.
- Do not lie on your back, or the bubble will move to the front of the eye and press against the lens instead of the retina.
- If your doctor used a gas bubble, avoid airplane travel until your doctor tells you it is safe. This is because the change in altitude may cause the gas bubble to expand and increase the pressure inside the eye.
- 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.
- You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will tell you if and when to start taking this medicine 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
- Close your eye and put ice or a cold pack on it 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.
- Ask your doctor when you can wash your hair and face. You will need to be careful not to get any soap or water in your eye. You may want to use a washcloth to gently wash your face.
- Wear sunglasses during the day. You may have to wear an eye patch or shield for a few days.
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 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 have a sudden loss of vision.
- You have severe eye pain.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your vision gets worse.
- You have new or increasing eye pain.
- 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 vision changes or see new flashes or floaters. (Flashes are "sparks" that you may see when you move your head. Floaters are shadows or dark objects that "float" across your field of vision.)
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You do not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
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