Diabetic Retinopathy Surgery Recovery

Woman holding eye patch over female patient's eyeDiabetic retinopathy, a common complication of diabetes, is a serious condition which can lead to blindness. Elevated levels of glucose in the blood can harm vessels in the eye, causing fluid to leak into the vitreous tissue. There are several types of diabetic retinopathy surgery which can combat these effects and protect your sight. Since each procedure targets the condition in different ways, your diabetic retinopathy surgery recovery period will vary depending on the specific treatment. The most common types of diabetic retinopathy surgery are laser photocoagulation and vitrectomy surgery. 

Recovery from Laser Treatment

During laser photocoagulation treatment, your eye doctor will use a laser to target leaking blood vessels. The outpatient procedure typically only takes a matter of minutes, after which you can return home. Someone will need to drive you to and from your appointment since your vision will be blurry. You will need to wear sunglasses for a period of time after the appointment, as your eyes will be dilated and sensitive to light. 

Temporary Side Effects

Most patients are able to return to their normal activities shortly after treatment. However, you may experience some temporary side effects, such as:

  • Discomfort
  • Blurred vision
  • Dark spots

Full recovery after laser photocoagulation can take several weeks. 

Retreatment and Results

Depending on the severity of your condition, you may require additional laser treatments. Severe diabetic macular edema, for example, may require three or four laser photocoagulation sessions spaced at intervals of two to four months. 

Full recovery after laser photocoagulation can take several weeks. 

While this procedure has a high success rate, it is not intended to cure diabetic retinopathy or restore lost vision. Maintaining stable blood glucose levels can further control symptoms and help protect the results of your laser treatment.

Recovery after a Vitrectomy

For more severe cases of diabetic retinopathy, a vitrectomy may be recommended. This procedure is designed to remove blood and scar tissue in the vitreous, or gel-like tissue within the eye, and replace it with a clear saline solution. Your doctor may perform laser photocoagulation or another treatment at the same time to prevent further issues.

Before you leave the office, your doctor will cover your eye with a patch and provide you with eye drops to help speed your recovery. Most patients are able to remove their patch later the same day or during an appointment the following day. You may be instructed to wear an eye shield while sleeping to avoid rubbing the eye.

Temporary Side Effects

Your eye will likely feel swollen and uncomfortable for several days after your vitrectomy. You can use an ice pack and over-the-counter medication to relieve pain and swelling. Contact your doctor right away if you develop a deep or throbbing pain which is not relieved by over-the-counter pain medication.

Patient having blood sugar checkedOther Considerations

Your post-operative instructions will depend on whether additional treatments were performed at the same time as your vitrectomy. If you were treated for retinal detachment with a gas bubble, for example, you will need to lay facedown for several days. Laying on your stomach helps keep the bubble in the proper position to restore your retina. 

While your recovery period and final results will depend on a variety of factors, your vision should begin to improve in about a week. You can maintain positive results by controlling your blood sugar. In addition, you should attend all follow-up appointments with your surgeon and attend an eye exam at least once a year. 

Learn More Today

Diabetic retinopathy does not have a cure, but surgery can slow the progression of the disease and protect your vision. Find out more about the recovery period after diabetic retinopathy surgery by contacting an eye doctor today. 


Sheth Horsley Eye Center

The ophthalmologists at Sheth Horsley Eye Center have been serving the community's eye care needs for over 50 years. Our doctors are members of various prestigious organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • International Society of Refractive Surgery
  • American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery
  • American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin

To schedule a consultation at one of our three office locations, request an appointment online or call us at (781) 979-0960.

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