Blurry vision after surgery is not uncommon. It can be a short-term side effect of many eye surgeries, and it can even occur after surgeries that do not involve your eyes.
Before you have surgery, a healthcare professional can explain any temporary vision changes you might experience afterward. They can also go over other side effects that might occur.
In most cases, blurry vision lasts for 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Some people may have blurry or altered vision for up to a week. If your blurry vision lasts any longer than that, you should talk with your doctor.
Read on to find out more about postsurgery blurry vision, what can help with your recovery, and when it’s important to contact your doctor.
Blurry vision can be a common side effect of eye surgeries. In fact, any operation on or around your eyes may result in temporary vision changes, including blurry vision.
Other potential vision concerns depend on the type of surgery you’ve had, as well as the type of anesthesia used.
Cataracts are caused by proteins that can change or break down inside your eye. When this happens, the proteins can stick together and form whitish, yellow, or brown clumps that cover the natural lens of your eye. These clumps impair your vision by making things look fuzzy or cloudy.
Cataracts take years to develop and are most common in older adults.
Cataract surgery typically happens in an operating room. It is generally a quick, safe procedure with a high success rate.
You will typically receive local anesthesia during cataract surgery. This numbs the nerves around your eye so you do not feel any pain or discomfort.
During the procedure, a doctor will remove the cloudy natural lens of your eye. They will replace it with a clear, artificial lens implant called an intraocular lens.
Blurry vision is common immediately after cataract surgery. It typically clears up within 2 to 3 days. In some instances, though, it can take a week or more for blurry vision to go away.
In addition to blurry vision, it’s not unusual to experience some sensitivity to light immediately after the surgery. More severe complications are rare.
A vitrectomy is an eye surgery that removes your eye’s vitreous humor. This is a gel-like substance that fills the back chamber of your eye.
You may need to have the vitreous removed if you have concerns related to your retina. The retina is a collection of cells at the back of your eye that sends visual signals to your brain to help it interpret images.
A vitrectomy is done in an operating room. You will typically receive a longer-acting local anesthetic around your eye.
After a surgeon removes the vitreous, they will replace it with a saline solution or bubble. Over time, your body will produce more of the natural fluid, filling the eye chamber once again.
If there are no complications, most people leave the hospital within a few hours of having a vitrectomy.
Blurry vision after a vitrectomy is possible and may last for 2 to 3 days. However, blurry vision may last longer if you have both a vitrectomy and retina surgery.
After the procedure, some people also experience a sandy or scratchy feeling in the eye. This is likely to clear up within a few days. The surgeon may prescribe eye drops to help with healing.
Blepharoplasty is eyelid surgery that corrects drooping eyelids.
Typically, you will receive a local anesthetic instead of general anesthesia. That means recovery from eyelid surgery is relatively quick.
During this procedure, a surgeon will remove fat, muscle, or excess skin from your eyelid. They will then stitch the eyelid back together to prevent it from drooping.
You’ll likely go home within a few hours of the surgery. However, short-term side effects like blurry vision and sensitivity to light are possible. These typically resolve within a couple of days.
LASIK or PRK surgery
Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a common eye surgery used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
As with many eye surgeries, local anesthetic is commonly used, and you’re able to go home in a few hours.
During the operation, a surgeon will use lasers and small blades to reshape the corneas of your eyes. This will allow your eyes to focus light properly and should result in improved vision. It typically eliminates the need for corrective lenses like glasses or contacts.
Some people may feel a gritty or sandy texture in their eyes after the surgery. Dry eye, which can cause blurry vision, is also fairly common after LASIK surgery.
Blurred vision may last several days but will typically resolve on its own. You will need antibiotic and steroid eye drops for proper healing. Eye drops can also help lubricate your eyes while they heal.
Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) laser surgery is an older procedure that’s similar to LASIK. It is also used to help correct vision by reshaping cornea tissue.
With PRK, a surgeon will fully remove the top layer of the cornea tissue. They will then use a laser to reshape irregular corneal tissue.
Recovery is similar to LASIK, but blurred vision may last longer as the surface of the eye continues to heal.
Retinal detachment surgery
If your retina pulls away from the tissues in your eye, you may experience immediate vision issues, including:
- blurred vision
- partial vision loss
- sudden flashes of light in your field of vision
Retinal detachment is a medical emergency. It should be treated quickly to help reduce the risk of permanent vision loss.
Surgery can repair a detached retina. Most often, this surgery can be performed under local anesthesia that’s injected around the eye.
Recovery, however, may take more time. You will likely experience short-term side effects like watery eyes and blurry vision for several days after surgery. Regular vision may not return for 2 to 4 weeks.
Some people may need additional surgeries to fully correct vision issues after retinal detachment.
Corneal transplant, or keratoplasty, is necessary if your eye’s cornea becomes damaged or diseased. During this operation, a surgeon will replace the cornea with donated corneal tissue. Once healed, the new tissue should restore vision.
Recovering from a corneal transplant can take several months. Most short-term side effects, including blurry vision, can last for a few weeks or longer.
A doctor may request that you wear a protective shield or eye pad for several days to help the tissue heal. Once it’s removed, side effects like blurred vision may occur as your eyes readjust.
Your doctor will likely prescribe medicated eye drops to help reduce side effects. Glasses and contact lenses may be needed for clear vision in the long term.
It’s not just eye surgeries that can cause blurry vision. A study from 2002 suggests that blurry vision can occur after several other types of surgery, especially those requiring general anesthesia.
Blurry vision is most common after cardiac and spinal fusion surgeries. It may occur after head and neck surgeries and some orthopedic procedures, too.
Certain conditions increase the likelihood of blurry vision after these surgeries. These conditions include:
- narrowing of the large arteries in the neck
- a history of stroke
- preexisting diseases of the eye
Blurry vision after surgery is also more common in older adults.
In the 2002 study, 7 of the 28 people who reported blurry vision 3 days after a surgical procedure eventually needed new corrective lenses or changes to their eyeglass prescriptions because the blurry vision never went away.
That group represented about 1 percent of the 671 people in the study. However, 96 percent of the total participants had returned to presurgery vision within 3 days.
For most people, blurry vision after surgery goes away within a few days. That’s the case for surgery on your eyes as well as other types of surgery. However, full recovery from surgery can often take weeks or months.
During the recovery period, it’s important that you follow your doctor’s orders. This will give you the best chance of healing properly and avoiding long-term side effects.
To speed up your recovery and reduce the risk of complications:
- Use medications or eyedrops exactly as prescribed by a doctor.
- Wear protective eye shields when instructed, including at night while you sleep.
- Don’t rub or push on your eyes.
- Avoid strenuous activities, like lifting or pushing, for several weeks after surgery. These activities can increase the pressure in your eyes.
- Wear sunglasses in bright rooms or outdoors to reduce light sensitivity.
- Avoid using products that might irritate your eyes, such as soap, makeup, cleansers, or creams.
- Avoid dusting or cleaning for a few days after surgery. The fine particles stirred up may irritate your eyes.
- Do not fly, dive, or spend time at higher elevations without clearing it with your doctor. The increased pressure could impact your recovery.
Your doctor will request follow-up appointments after your surgery to monitor your progress and to ensure you don’t have any complications. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up appointments.
Before your surgery, the doctor should tell you how long you can expect side effects to last. If your blurry vision continues beyond this time frame, contact the doctor. Recovery will look different for each person, but long-lasting side effects are not typical.
Consult with your doctor if you notice any of the following signs after surgery:
- extremely dry eyes that don’t get better with lubricated eye drops
- ongoing light sensitivity
- new eye floaters
- inflamed or painful eyes
- eye redness, with or without pain
It’s expected that you might have these symptoms immediately after eye surgery. However, they should not last more than a few days. When in doubt, contact your doctor.
Blurry vision can be common after surgery, especially surgery involving your eyes. Blurry vision may also happen after other types of surgery, especially if it involves your spine or heart.
However, blurry vision is usually a short-term side effect. Long-term blurry vision or changes to your vision that require corrective lenses are rare.
It’s important that you follow all your doctor’s post-operation instructions. This will help you have the best chance of fully healing and avoiding complications.