Healing After a Traumatic Eye Loss: Options and Next Steps after Surgery

Each year, thousands of patients get the devastating news that an eye must be removed. This can be due to a severe injury, cancer, glaucoma, an uncontrolled infection, or a retinal tear. Whatever the reason, the loss of any eye is a traumatic, life-changing event.

If you’re preparing to have surgery to remove an eye — commonly an enucleation or evisceration procedure — you may be wondering what’s next.

What happens after you recover from surgery?

How long does it take to adjust to vision in one eye?

How will you answer questions about your appearance? Will you wear sunglasses or a patch?

Should you consider a prosthetic eye?

The guide below can help you answer these questions.

The First Few Weeks After Surgery

During surgery, a porous implant is placed where your eye was located. Existing eye muscles are attached to the implant, which will allow any future prosthesis to move. A plastic shell, also known as a conformer, is placed behind the eyelid to prevent the eye socket from contracting.

Some patients experience a headache or nausea in the first few days after surgery. Headaches can typically be managed by over-the-counter medicine. Your doctor can prescribe medicine for nausea or a more severe headache.

A pressure patch will be placed over the surgical site immediately after surgery. You may also be given oral antibiotics and steroids to take for several days. You will have a follow-up visit with the surgeon four to six days after surgery. If everything is healing properly, you will be given topical antibiotic drops or ointment for several weeks.

Adjusting to Vision in One Eye

Some tasks, such as grasping objects, driving, and navigating a crowded space, can present challenges for people with vision in one eye. Also known as monocular vision, having only one functioning eye means it can be harder to perceive depth, judge distances, and track moving objects. Visual training activities can help, and some large medical centers, such as Duke Health, offer vision rehabilitation services.

Deciding on a Patch, Glasses, or Prosthetic Eye

Patients typically choose to handle their appearance in one of three ways: wearing a patch, wearing sunglasses, or having a prosthetic eye made. Patches and sunglasses are readily available, and some patients enjoy having different styles of glasses or patches on hand. However, these solutions have limitations when it comes to sports, showering, and other activities. Sunglasses and patches also call attention to your eyes, which can feel uncomfortable for some patients.

A prosthetic eye can restore your appearance and can be left in for almost all activities. (Patients should use goggles or remove the eye for water sports such as swimming and water skiing.) Prosthetic eyes that are properly fitted should be comfortable, can move in a natural way, and help patients feel more self-confident.

You can be fitted for a prosthetic eye about 6 to 10 weeks after surgery. An ocularist, someone who is trained in fitting and making prosthetic eyes, will consult with your eye surgeon, and get to know you and your specific needs in an initial evaluation. They will then schedule a visit to make an impression of your eye socket and create the eye.

For the best fit and an eye that most closely matches your own, choose an ocularist who makes customized eyes instead of using eyes from a stock selection.

Consult with a Board-Certified Ocularist at Carolina Eye Prosthetics

At Carolina Eye Prosthetics, we have experience working with patients who have suffered all sorts of traumatic eye losses. We understand both the physical and emotional impact losing an eye can have and work to address all of your concerns and questions.

If you would like to schedule a no-cost consultation with one of our board-certified ocularists, contact us at 877-763-9393 or make an appointment with our online form. We offer video consultations for patients who live at a distance from our office in Burlington, NC. We are conveniently located a short distance from the eye centers at Duke Health, UNC Health, and Wake Forest Baptist Health.