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Eyelid Surgery Recovery: Tips + What To Expect

Written by Timothy McGee, MD, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon on October 22, 2021 23 Comments

eyelid surgery recovery

Originally published February 5, 2018. Updated October 22, 2021 with additional information.

Eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) is an outpatient surgical procedure with most patients experiencing a relatively short and simple downtime.

However, it is important to realize that the process of recovering from blepharoplasty can vary from patient to patient. There are several factors that can affect recovery including the patient’s pain tolerance, their general health, their body’s natural recovery response, and the surgical technique performed (i.e. a patient who undergoes both upper and lower blepharoplasty may have a longer recovery period compared to patient who only undergoes lower blepharoplasty).

This post will seek to provide a basic understanding of the average blepharoplasty recovery timeline, as well as some tips to make your recovery faster and easier.

What To Expect Immediately After Your Procedure

Immediately after your eyelid surgery, you’ll wake up with blurry vision. This is nothing to be alarmed about. It’s the result of the thick ophthalmic ointment which keeps your eyelids free from infection and dryness. You’ll need to reapply this ointment four times each day for at least one week after your surgery.

Your doctor will keep you in the procedure room until it’s assured you are stable. After surgery, temporary side effects may include the following:

  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Double vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Numbness around the eyes
  • Puffy or swollen eyelids
  • Bruising, similar to a black eye

In addition, if your surgery was performed with general anesthesia, you may feel some nausea or dizziness. Plan for a friend or trusted helper to drive you home and stay with you during the first day of recovery.

The 3 Basic Stages of Eyelid Surgery Recovery

Your eyelid surgery recovery can be broken down into 3 stages; bruising, swelling and the healing of your incisions as follows:

Bruising: After eyelid surgery you may feel like you have two black eyes. This is a normal side-effect. Upper eyelid bruising will decrease within 1-2 weeks, while bruises on the lower eyelids may take 2-4 weeks to heal.

Swelling: Fluid retention and puffiness around the eyes is also normal after surgery, and often takes longer to subside than bruising or discoloration. In some cases, swelling lasts for upwards of 8 weeks.  After the first week of recovery, there’s no medical reason to stay home from work or out of the public eye, but if swelling makes you self-conscious, you may want to plan for longer downtime.

Incisions: Scars are unavoidable after surgery, and eyelid surgery is no exception. It may take your scars a full year or more before reaching their maximum improvement and lowest visibility. Following all provided incision care instructions, maintaining proper hydration and staying out of the sun will help reduce the appearance of scars.  Fortunately, scarring is minimal with eyelid surgery recovery. Scars on the lower eyelid are hidden by lashes, while scars on the upper eyelid hide neatly in the natural folds of the skin.

Recovery Milestones & Restrictions

2-3 days following surgery: Some patients may experience nausea or grogginess from the anesthesia utilized during the procedure. Nausea can be minimized with medication if the patient has a history of this type of reaction. The eyes may feel tight, hot, or tender during this period. Patients may also experience mild pain and discomfort which can be managed using prescribed medication. Many patients may experience blurred vision and minor sight impairments. Depending on the procedure performed, gauze or protective bandages may need to be worn over the eyes. Patients may also begin to experience itching sensations at the incision sites. This is a normal part of the healing process which may last for a couple of weeks. Patients should avoid rubbing or itching the eyelids until they are fully healed.

1 week following surgery: Patients may have experienced continued bruising and swelling, however pain and discomfort should be minimal. While sight becomes clearer, patients are still advised to try and avoid activities that dry out the eyes like extended reading or television watching. Stitches are typically removed by your surgeon or are fully dissolved by the end of this period.

10 days after surgery: At this point most patients are able to return to work and normal daily activities like extended reading or TV watching. However strenuous activities should continue to be avoided. Both vision blurring and pain is minimal, however some light bruising and swelling may remain.

2-3 weeks following surgery: Swelling and bruising around the eyes begins to fade away. Most patients can begin wearing eye makeup and contact lenses. Patients can participate in more strenuous exercises and activities (except for contact sports). Some individuals may continue to experience fatigue and notice that their eyes tire easily.

4-6 weeks following surgery: Patients begin to see the final results of their procedure as most or all swelling and bruising dissipates. Most patients are fully recovered and all restrictions are lifted.

Video: My Eyelid Surgery Recovery

Tips for a Speedy Blepharoplasty Recovery

Take Time Off

Give yourself at least one week of time off from work, school or other public duties. This time is not only important for your healing, but may be important for reducing embarrassment or stress.

Enlist a friend or family member to drive you home the day of your procedure and help you with daily tasks during the first 1-3 days of your recovery. Stock your home with food and other necessities to avoid the need to run errands.

Follow Incision Care Instructions

Your doctor will send you home with incision care instructions. Following this closely will speed your recovery and minimize scarring.

Typically, you’ll be asked to clean the area twice daily with a cotton swab soaked in saline solution of hydrogen peroxide. Afterwards, you’ll reapply your ophthalmic ointment.

Help Reduce Swelling & Bruising

Regularly applying a cold compress helps reduce swelling and bruising, and is especially important during the first week of recovery. An ice-pack wrapped in a towel can be applied for up to 20 minutes at a time every hour.

Mindfully Manage Pain

Your doctor may send you home with medications to help manage your pain. Avoid taking ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin or naproxen sodium (Aleve), which can all increase bleeding. Instead, ask your doctor about using acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain.

Avoid Strenuous Activity

Prioritize rest during your first 2 weeks of recovery. Get plenty of sleep and avoid all strenuous activity. Exercising, lifting heavy items or too much movement can increase blood flow and cause bleeding. Even yoga, which seems gentle, should be avoided, especially inversions.

Practice Good Eye Care

During the first two weeks following surgery take steps to rest and protect your eyes including the following:

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes
  • Avoiding straining your eyes by limiting screen-time and reading
  • Use prescribed eye drops to prevent eyes from drying
  • Sleep with your head elevated above your chest to reduce swelling
  • Avoid wearing makeup around the eyes while your incisions are healing
  • Wear glasses instead of contact lenses for at least the first 2 weeks
  • When outside, wear sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes from the sun

Face Washing During Recovery

Keeping your incisions clean prevents infection and minimizes scarring. The following timeline can help you plan for at-home self-care.

  • 1-2 days after surgery: Keep your eyes dry. Baths are recommended over showers and if you must wash your hair, do so in the sink.
  • Day 3-7: Begin gently washing your eyes with water and mild, fragrance-free soap. Pat lightly with a towel to dry. Avoid picking at scabs, allow them to fall off as they’re ready to.
  • Day 7: You’ll return to your doctor to have your stitches removed. After this, you may resume your regular washing routine.
  • Day 14: Most patients are cleared to wear makeup again as long as all incisions are fully healed.

Incision Care

Surgeons will typically provide comprehensive incision care instructions that should be followed until the incisions are fully healed. Common instructions include:

  • Avoiding rubbing of the eyes
  • Refraining from submerging the incision area under water
  • Cleaning the incision site twice daily by dapping the area with a cotton swab soaked in either a saline solution or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Applying a prescription ointment over the incision or stitches to aid in healing
  • Using a cold compress to reduce swelling and bruising in the area
  • Avoiding makeup until the incision is fully healed
  • Wearing glasses instead of contact lenses for two weeks following surgery
  • Shielding the incision area from UV exposure to minimize scarring

Most surgeons may require several follow-up appointments times during the first week after surgery to monitor the incisions. During these appointments, the surgeon will check all incision sites and remove any stitches if required.

Scarring

As with any surgical procedure scarring is possible. Fortunately, eyelid surgery yields some of the least notable scars of any plastic surgery procedure. One reason is incision size, most eyelid surgery techniques require very small incisions (a couple of millimeters in length). Another reason is that the eyelids feature several natural creases that will allow a skilled surgeon to place their incisions in a manner where they will be minimally visible. Lower eyelid scarring can be hidden by the lashes while upper eyelid scars can be disguised by preexisting creases of the skin.

Additional Eyelid Surgery Recovery Resources

 


Timothy McGee, MD

Dr. McGee has been practicing plastic surgery for more than 18 years in all areas of the field, including cosmetic surgery and reconstructive breast and facial surgery. Dr. McGee is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. He has numerous hospital affiliations in the Round Rock and greater Austin areas and is a member of the American Society of plastic Surgeons, American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, American College of Surgeons and Austin Smiles.


23 Responses to “Eyelid Surgery Recovery: Tips + What To Expect”

  1. Avatar Dr.Mirrafati says:

    Great tips and suggestions. I agree that the above tips will help for a smooth blepharoplasty recovery and lower risks. We’ve been sharing this post with our patients and have heard great feedback!

  2. Avatar Dr. Sid Mirrafati says:

    Great ideas for quick recovery and to eliminate the risk after the surgery. I wanted to share this infographic with your community on how to prepare for eyelid surgery: https://visual.ly/community/Infographics/education/dr-sid-mirrafati-how-prepare-eyelid-surgery. I hope you find it valuable enough to approve this comment!

  3. Avatar Christy says:

    It sure was nice to be made aware that it is only after ten days following the surgery will the person be able to return to their work and do normal daily activities. I’ll mention this to my mom because she is planning to undergo the eyelid surgery soon. Since she wants to know how long she should set the leave with her company, I think this recovery restriction guide that you made will help.

  4. Avatar Allen says:

    So should I anticipate not being able to see for the first couple days following the procedure?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Allen,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your question! This would depend on the specific technique used in your procedure, so this is something you should talk to your surgeon about during your in-person consultation. Some patients may experience blurred vision and minor sight impairments while others suffer no impairments throughout recovery.

      Hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  5. Avatar Simran says:

    Very helpful post, I’m still considering a procedure. Do you have free consultations

  6. Avatar Kit says:

    Thanks for pointing out how patients should stay away from watching T.V., reading, and other activities that could be straining the eyes. My aunt plans on going under a brow lift surgery to boost her confidence a little. She is quite the bookworm, so I will be sure to advise her not to pick up a book while in recovery.

  7. Avatar Simran says:

    Was very useful, thanks for sharing the blog.

  8. Avatar Bonnie says:

    How long after surgery can I travel by air?

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Bonnie,

      Thanks for your great question! The answer will depend on the specific type of eyelid surgery you will undergo. A good rule of thumb is typically around 1 week. However it is always important to discuss this with your surgeon prior to your procedure. Depending on some variables it could be more or less.

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  9. Avatar yasmin says:

    I have allergic eyes i want upper blepharoplasty, can i be a best candidate for this treatment.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Yasmin,

      Thanks for reading the post and your great question. You can still be a great candidate for the procedure. However, you’ll need to discuss your allergies with your surgeon in your in-office consultation to make sure your a good fit.

      Hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  10. Avatar Jane says:

    I am from Denmark, I am writing for a little advise, sorry for my bad english.

    I just had a lower eyelid operation 3 days ago. Is it normal that my eyes have change shape, The eyes are very tighten and the stitches are pulling the eyes down in the sides, i dosent look like my eyes at all, are there any change that they are going back to normal. I look like an egyptian from the ancient times, thank you,

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Jane,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your question. It is difficult to give you the right advice since we are unable to assess you in person. However, it sounds like the concerns you describe are serious and we would recommend you visiting your surgeon for a post-op consultation. Most surgeons will be glad to see you to assess what’s going on.

      So our recommendation: contact your surgeon and schedule an appointment to showcase those concerns.

      We hope that helps!

      Thanks,
      WD Staff

  11. Avatar Rumon says:

    Hello, Your article is very helpful. Ptosis is drooping of the protective fold. It’s a rare condition that may be persistent while not treatment. I find that younger patients respond well to the surgery. In fact, I just wrote a post on the subject here: https://healthguyd.com/ptosis-surgery-types-preparation-and-recovery/

  12. Avatar Crystal says:

    Amazing Tips for faster recovery. Also check out my blog: https://www.lifestylebyte.com/bests-tips-post-eyelid-surgery-recovery/

  13. Avatar Dr. Kiernan says:

    Great tips, we can confirm the accuracy of this article

  14. Avatar John says:

    Wonderful tips for faster recovery. again thanks for sharing.

  15. Avatar Alice says:

    Id say I was fully recovered within 4 weeks or so

  16. Avatar peggy says:

    Some of the post surgery pictures look gross, especially with the stitches. However I had the procedure and can honestly say recovery was not too bad. I was feeling great within 2-3 days post procedure.

  17. Avatar Grace says:

    Is there any difference in terms of recovery for upper blepharoplasty vs lower blepharoplasty?

  18. WD Staff WD Staff says:

    Great question Grace!

    While recovery does differ from patient to patient, the experience does not differ too dramatically between upper or lower blelparoplasty. Recovery, however, can be very different for patients who undergo a quad blepharoplasty (combination of both upper and lower).

    We hope that helps!

    Thanks,
    WD Staff

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