You can usually wear contact lenses after your eye has completely healed from retinal detachment surgery. Your ophthalmologist will tell you when your eye has healed and it is safe to wear contacts again, which can take up to six months.1
After your surgery, you will be prescribed eye drops or ointments which are to be used for 4-8 weeks.1 Not all of these medications are compatible with contact lenses, so you may not be able to wear lenses during that time. The amount of time it takes for you to be able to wear contacts again will often depend on the type of procedure you had, too.
Can I wear my old contact lenses or do I need a new prescription?
There can be a change in prescription following retinal detachment surgery. For example, a scleral buckle procedure can increase myopia short-sightedness) and/or astigmatism.5 This means the prescription for your contact lenses will change. It may be a few weeks to months before your vision stabilizes, but this is completely normal after this surgery. You should wait for your ophthalmologist to tell you when to get a new prescription and start using contact lenses again (this will typically be in 6-8 weeks).
What type of contact lenses will I need after retinal detachment repair?
Vitreoretinal surgery can cause or worsen dry eye in some patients, both immediately after the operation and for some time afterwards.6 This may make it uncomfortable for some people to tolerate contact lenses. However, soft contact lenses for dry eyes are designed to allow better hydration and oxygen permeability. The use of these contact lenses along with rewetting drops can help improve the experience of wearing your contact lenses.
What types of surgeries are performed for retinal detachment?
There are several ways to fix a detached retina. The type of procedure chosen by the ophthalmologist depends on the type and severity of the detachment.2
Pneumatic Retinopexy (Gas Injection):
A bubble of gas is injected into the eye to push the retina back into place. This gas bubble then disappears gradually over about a month. You will need to maintain a certain head and eye position (usually face down) for eight or more hours a day for 1-2 weeks after this type of surgery. This is to keep the gas bubble in place.3 You should expect to wait at least one month before wearing contact lenses again, if not longer.
A flexible band is placed around the central portion of the eye to counterbalance the forces pulling the retina out of place. Your ophthalmologist may drain fluid from under the retina to allow it to go back into place. You won’t need to stay at the hospital overnight for this, but scleral buckling is performed in an operating room.2 Recovery time is around 2-6 weeks, during which time you shouldn’t wear your contact lenses.4
The vitreous humour, a gel-like substance in the eye, is removed during this procedure. This is sometimes done to make way for the gas bubble which the body will gradually replace with natural fluids. A vitrectomy is sometimes combined with a scleral buckle.2 Full recovery from vitrectomy can take 4-6 weeks.
Every surgery has some risks, however, without treatment, a retinal detachment can lead to permanent vision loss. Possible surgical complications that could delay or prevent you using contact lenses after retinal detachment repair include infection, bleeding, increased pressure inside the eye, and cataract.2
1. UC Davis. (no date). Patient information instructions following retinal surgery. [Online]. Available at: https://health.ucdavis.edu/eye... [Accessed 5 November 2019].
2. Kellogg Eye Center University of Michigan. (no date). Pneumatic Retinopexy Surgery. [Online]. Available at: https://www.umkelloggeye.org/c... [Accessed 5 November 2019].
3. Kellogg Eye Center University of Michigan Health System. (no date). Pneumatic Retinopexy Surgery. [Online]. Available at: http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr... [Accessed 5 November 2019].
4. NHS. (2017). Detached retina (retinal detachment). [Online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/... [Accessed 5 November 2019].
5. Retinal Eye Doctor. (no date). Double vision after retinal detachment surgery. [Online]. Available at: https://retinaeyedoctor.com/20... [Accessed 5 November 2019].
6. Heimann H, Gochman R, Hellmich M, Foerster MH. Dry Eye Symptoms Following Vitreo-Retinal Surgery and Ocular Tumor Therapy. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. May 2003. Vol. 44, 3759. [Online]. Available at: https://iovs.arvojournals.org/... [Accessed 5 November 2019].