Eyelid Surgery Recovery – What You Should Know

Reviewed by Darrick E. Antell, MD

Everyone heals differently. The precise nature of your eyelid surgery recovery will depend on numerous factors, including the extent of your surgery and whether you have other procedures such as brow lift surgery performed at the same time. Your eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) recovery should be discussed with your plastic surgeon during your initial consultation and any other preoperative visits.

The following is a snapshot of what you can expect during your eyelid surgery recovery.

Immediately Following Eyelid Surgery

Immediately after your blepharoplasty, your surgeon will likely apply some lubricating ointment and cold compresses to your eyes. Your eyes may also be covered with gauze. Unless your eyelid surgery is combined with other, more major procedures such as face lift or brow lift, you will likely go home the same day and will need a friend or family member to drive you.

Blurry vision is common immediately following eyelid surgery. This is normal and does not mean that something went wrong. Your eyes may also be sensitive to light after your eyelid surgery.

Cleaning your eyes and the incision sites is an important part of your eyelid surgery recovery. Your surgeon should provide detailed instructions on how to do this properly. Any stitches are usually removed about a week after your eyelid surgery.

There will be some swelling, bruising and/or irritation after your eyelid surgery. Cold compresses help with swelling, and soothing ointment can reduce any irritation at the incision sites. Follow your surgeon's instructions on how, and when, to apply this ointment.

Remember, the area around your eyes is extremely delicate and becomes bruised and swollen easily. The more complicated your eyelid surgery, the more bruising and swelling may result. It can take up to three weeks for swelling to (mostly) resolve after eyelid surgery. Some surgeons recommend herbal remedies such as arnica montana or bromelain to reduce postsurgical bruising and swelling. Ask your surgeon what you can do to keep bruising and swelling to a minimum following your surgery.

You will also be given an antibiotic to help lower your risk of developing a postsurgical infection. Take your antibiotic as directed, for as long as directed, after your eyelid surgery.

Expect some pain and discomfort following your eyelid surgery. This is usually alleviated with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Certain OTC medications increase your risk of bleeding and should not be taken before or after your eyelid surgery. These include, but are not limited to, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. Make sure you are clear about what is and is not OK to take for post-eyelid surgery discomfort.

Preventing and Treating Dry Eyes After Eyelid Surgery

Dry eyes are common after blepharoplasty. Lubricating eye drops or artificial tears can help moisten dry eyes and alleviate any burning or itching. Watching television, reading or using a computer or other electronic device immediately after your blepharoplasty can cause dry eyes and slow down your eyelid surgery recovery. You will likely be able to watch TV again after a few days.

You should keep your head elevated after your surgery, which can make sleeping a challenge. It may be helpful to use two or three medium-sized pillows or an inclined foam wedge to keep your head in the correct position. Your surgeon may also suggest a special eye mask to protect your eyes while you sleep.

Other eyelid surgery recovery tips include:

  • Don't wear eye makeup for one to two weeks after your surgery. Makeup can be used to camouflage any residual eye bruising after that time.
  • Avoid alcohol (which can cause swelling and slow your recovery).
  • Don't wear contact lenses for approximately two weeks. Your contacts may not feel comfortable after your surgery. However, wearing eyeglasses is OK after your blepharoplasty.
  • Avoid any activity that could increase blood flow to your eyes. This includes bending, lifting and exercising. Also be aware that crying increases blood flow to the eyes.

Most people are able to go back to work within 10 days after their blepharoplasty, but if your job involves reading or computer work, you may be sidelined longer. Ask your surgeon for specific advice and factor this in if taking time off from work is an issue for you.

The best way to minimize your risk of complications and ensure a smooth recovery is to choose a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive eyelid surgery experience. Following your surgeon's advice and being aware of any eyelid surgery risks will go a long way toward increasing your satisfaction with the results of your blepharoplasty. Be sure to discuss your risk profile and recovery expectations along with the procedure details and eyelid surgery cost at your initial consultation. Start your search for the right surgeon now.

About the Reviewer of This Article

Darrick E. Antell, MD, is an educational spokesperson for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon who has been in private practice for more than 20 years in New York City. Dr. Antell is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Antell received his general surgery training at Stanford University Medical Center and his specialty training in plastic/reconstructive surgery at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.