Blepharoplasty is an invasive surgical procedure and by definition, requires time to heal. Eye surgery causes trauma to the tissue surrounding your eyes and it’s difficult to determine how your eyes will look, even after a week or more. In the grand scheme of things, eight days is not enough time to determine the majority of mistakes. Even if your doctor did cause a complication, it’s possible it will clear up during the healing process. However, there are some rare complications to be mindful of and consult your physician immediately if you are experiencing the symptoms.
Immediate post-operative issues
Dr. Steinsapir uses the term “immediate” to describe post-operative issues and complications that last from moments after surgery to up to six months, whereas long-term complications are issues that persist for more than six months. He uses the six month time frame because a number of concerns related to upper eyelid crease height, difficulty closing the eye, mild lower eyelid retraction or alterations in eyelid shape often resolve spontaneously within this time period.
One of the most common problems after surgery is dry eye. Swelling and temporary lid dysfunction can exacerbate pre-op dry eye issues. When the eyelids are swollen after surgery, they do not move the tears around very well and this can cause drying and irritation. This type of swelling can typically affect eye comfort for ten days or more when there is normal tear production. When the eyes are dry, eye comfort may be affected by post-operative eyelid swelling for several weeks before resolving.
If, however, the surgery damages the nerve fibers that supply the muscle that closes the eye (orbicularis oculi muscle), the blink mechanism may be permanently affected causing long-term eye surface drying and dry eye symptoms like irritation, sensation of burning, grittiness, and redness. Fortunately, many of these closure issues get better over time. You can treat these dry-eye symptoms with artificial tears and bland ophthalmic ointment. Additionally, Dr. Steinsapir may choose to supplement this by plugging the tear drainage system, and taping the eyes closed.
Bruising is natural and anticipated following surgery; it is a normal part of recovery. On rare occasions, a much more significant bruise can occur. If this happens deep behind the eye, the bruise can cause blindness. This type of bleeding is called a retro-orbital hemorrhage. While these cases are very rare, it is this very significant risk that prompts the eyelid surgeon to advise potential patients to avoid medications and herbal products that can thin the blood and predispose to bruises in the first place.
Bleeding that causes bruising after surgery can occur from straining, coughing or other activities that disrupt the clots that normally form from the surgical wounds. For this reason, it is essential for your potential eyelid surgeon to know if you are taking a blood thinner such as aspirin, coumadin, or Plavix. In these circumstances, Dr. Steinsapir will advise against elective or optional eyelid surgery.
Superficial bruising may not threaten vision but these bruises can affect the outcome of surgery. Severe bruises cause swelling that can stretch a healing eyelid. In the upper eyelid, this can produce heaviness in the upper eyelid that might need to be corrected surgically if there is no resolution after 6 months. When the resulting eyelid malposition does not satisfactorily resolve by 6 months after surgery, revisional surgery may be necessary to address the issue.
Occasionally, stitches closing the surgical incision come apart before the skin edges are healed together. This is called a wound dehiscence. This most commonly occurs in the upper eyelid where an incision is made to remove excess skin. The raw edges of skin separate and the wound gapes open. This can be unsightly and it is tempting to sew the raw edges back together. This may be the right thing to do, however, there may be a low-grade infection causing the wound separation in which case the best course of action is to simply observe the area, and keep it moist with extra antibiotic ointment. The most surprising thing about wound dehiscence is how well it heals on its own. It has been Dr. Steinsapir’s experience that given time to fully heal, the body pulls the skin edges back together so well that no further intervention is needed.
Chemosis is a specific type of tissue swelling. The white of the eye is a specialized tissue called the conjunctiva. Just like the eyelids can swell following surgery, the conjunctiva can also swell. It looks like jelly along the edge of the eyelid. Mild chemosis is self-limited; it will resolve on its own. More severe chemosis is very rare and is almost never seen with standard blepharoplasty. In this circumstance, the swollen conjunctival tissues balloon to the point where they are not covered by the closed eyelids. When this happens, the conjunctiva is subject to drying that causes more swelling―becoming a cycle. The best treatment is aggressive lubrication with an ophthalmic ointment and when necessary, occlusion with plastic wrap to prevent drying. Surgical treatments are available for the rare instances when these measures are insufficient.
About Dr. Steinsapir
Dr. Steinsapir is a board certified eye surgeon and fellowship-trained in oculoplastic surgery and cosmetic surgery in Los Angeles where he specializes in balanced facial cosmetic surgery for natural results, with an emphasis on minimally invasive techniques, fast recovery time, and leadership in medical technology. Dr. Steinsapir has a private practice and also serves as an Associate Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute, at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Contact us today to learn how Dr. Steinsapir’s experience and training make him an expert in cosmetic surgery, which can be a vital part of your evidence-based treatment plan.
To learn more about procedures and treatments performed by Beverly Hills | Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Steinsapir, contact us at 310-274-7422.
Services described may be “off-label” and lack FDA approval. This article is informational and does not constitute an advertisement for off-label treatment. No services should be provided without a good faith examination by a licensed physician and an informed consent with a discussion of risks, benefits, alternatives, and the likelihood of treatment success. Only you and your treating physician or surgeon can determine if a treatment is right for you.