What to Expect When Recovering from Blepharoplasty

Blepharoplasty, commonly known as eyelid surgery, is a procedure designed to enhance the appearance of the eyelids. It may be undertaken for cosmetic reasons or to address functional issues that affect one’s vision. The surgery may involve modifying the upper or lower eyelids, or both. The process of recovering from blepharoplasty varies between individuals in terms of the time it takes and the results you can expect, but it typically follows a predictable course with proper aftercare. 

Here, we will explore what blepharoplasty involves, typical recovery timelines, potential complications, and essential postoperative care tips. Additionally, we will discuss what steps to take if you suspect that the surgical outcome was compromised due to negligence.

What is blepharoplasty?

Blepharoplasty is a surgical procedure aimed at modifying the eyelids. The surgery can be performed on the upper lids, lower lids, or both, depending on the patient’s needs and the desired outcome. People often opt for this surgery for cosmetic reasons—to rejuvenate the area around their eyes by removing excess skin, muscle, and sometimes fat that can otherwise make the eyelids look droopy or puffy. However, blepharoplasty isn’t only about improving appearance; it’s also medically necessary for some individuals. For example, excessive eyelid skin can obstruct vision, and correcting this can significantly improve the patient’s ability to see.

The procedure itself involves a surgeon making precise incisions followed by the removal or repositioning of tissue. In cases where fat is removed, it is carefully done to avoid a hollowed-out look after surgery. The surgeon’s goal is to create a natural-looking result that complements the overall facial structure. After the necessary adjustments are made, the incisions are closed with fine sutures, which are often placed so that the resulting scars are well-hidden within the natural folds of the eyelid.

Typical recovery times

Recovery from blepharoplasty can vary, but it generally follows a predictable timeline that is divided into several phases, each marked by different recovery milestones.

  • Initial recovery phase (first 48 hours): immediately after the surgery, patients can expect some swelling and bruising around the eyes. This will be at its most pronounced during the first two days, but could last longer. It’s crucial during this time to rest and follow the surgeon’s instructions meticulously. Patients are advised to keep their heads elevated, even when sleeping, to help reduce swelling. Applying cold compresses can also aid in managing swelling and discomfort.
  • Intermediate recovery phase (first two weeks): over the next two weeks, patients will notice a significant reduction in swelling and bruising. Stitches are usually removed or dissolve naturally within this period, depending on the type used. Patients can typically return to work and some normal activities within a week or two post-surgery, although this depends on the nature of their work and their rate of healing. It’s important to avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting, which could strain the eyes and set back the healing process.
  • Long-term healing phase (up to several months): the final shape of the eyelids will gradually emerge as the healing process continues. Minor swelling and subtle changes can persist for several months. Most patients see the final results of their surgery within three to six months. The scars, which initially might be noticeable, will start to fade and should eventually blend into the natural creases of the eyelids.

Potential complications 

While blepharoplasty is generally safe, every surgical procedure comes with potential risks and complications that patients should be aware of. Understanding these risks can help individuals make informed decisions and recognise symptoms if they arise during recovery.

Common side effects

  • Swelling and bruising: these are the most typical reactions post-surgery and usually subside within a couple of weeks.
  • Dry eyes: patients may experience dryness, irritation, or a burning sensation in their eyes. These symptoms are usually temporary and can be alleviated with eye drops or ointments prescribed by the surgeon.

Less common complications

  • Infection: although rare, there is a risk of infection at the incision sites. Signs of infection include increased redness, swelling, pain, and sometimes discharge from the eyes. Prompt treatment with antibiotics is necessary to prevent further complications.
  • Scarring: while most scars from the incisions will fade and become less noticeable over time, some individuals may develop more visible or abnormal scarring.
  • Changes in sensation: temporary numbness or changes in sensation around the eyelids are possible due to nerve disruption during surgery. These are not usually permanent.
  • Asymmetry: differences in the appearance of the eyelids or their function may occur if healing is uneven or due to surgical technique. Further corrective surgery may be required to address significant asymmetry.

Serious complications

  • Vision problems: although exceedingly rare, it is possible to experience temporary or permanent vision changes, including double vision.
  • Bleeding: postoperative bleeding under the skin can lead to complications that require prompt medical attention.

Eyelid function

  • Difficulty closing eyes: some patients might find it challenging to fully close their eyelids after surgery. This condition is often temporary but can be permanent in rare cases.
  • Ectropion: this is when the lower eyelid droops away from the eye and turns outward, exposing the inner surface. This might require further surgical intervention to correct.

Postoperative care tips

Proper postoperative care is essential for a smooth recovery and to get the optimal results from your blepharoplasty. Here are some practical tips to help manage the recovery phase effectively:

  1. Follow surgeon’s instructions: adhering to the detailed care instructions provided by your surgeon is crucial. These guidelines include how to care for your eyes, which medications to apply or take orally to aid healing and reduce the risk of infection, and when to return for follow-up care.
  2. Cold compresses: applying cold compresses to the eyes for the first 48 hours post-surgery can significantly help reduce swelling and bruising. Be gentle and ensure that the compress is not too heavy on your eyes.
  3. Keep your head elevated: during the initial recovery phase, keep your head elevated even while sleeping. Use extra pillows to prop yourself up. This position helps reduce swelling and promotes faster healing.
  4. Avoid strenuous activities: refrain from any heavy lifting, bending, swimming, or aerobic activities that could increase blood pressure and lead to bleeding or more swelling. Typically, you should avoid these activities for at least two weeks after surgery.
  5. Protect your eyes from sunlight: wearing dark sunglasses can protect your eyes from irritation caused by wind and sunlight, which is particularly important post-surgery as your eyes may be more sensitive.
  6. Avoid smoking: smoking can significantly slow down the healing process and increase the risk of complications. It’s advised to quit smoking several weeks before and after the surgery.
  7. Eye care: avoid rubbing your eyes. This is crucial to prevent infection and protect the delicate surgical work of blepharoplasty. If your eyes feel itchy or dry, use the eye drops or ointments prescribed by your doctor.
  8. Watch for signs of complications: be aware of the signs of complications, such as increased pain, persistent swelling, redness, or discharge from the eyes. Contact your surgeon immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
  9. Nutrition and hydration: maintaining a healthy diet and staying hydrated can aid your recovery. Foods rich in vitamins A and C can promote healing.
  10. Follow-up appointments: attend all scheduled postoperative appointments so that your surgeon can monitor your recovery and ensure that you are healing properly. These visits are also an opportunity to address any concerns or questions you might have.

What to do if you suspect negligence

If you believe that your blepharoplasty has resulted in poor outcomes due to cosmetic surgery negligence, it’s important to take systematic steps to address the situation. Here’s what you can do:

Document your concerns

Begin by documenting any symptoms or issues you’re experiencing that you believe may be linked to negligence. This includes taking detailed notes on dates, specific problems, and any communications you’ve had with your healthcare provider about these issues.

Seek a second opinion

Consult another qualified plastic surgeon to get a second opinion. This step is crucial as it will provide you with an unbiased assessment of your postoperative results and whether they might be due to substandard care.

Continue medical care

Ensure you continue to receive the necessary medical care to address your symptoms or complications. This not only pertains to managing your current condition but also to preventing any further harm.

Gather medical records

Collect all relevant medical records, including pre-surgery consultations, details about your surgery, and any follow-up care. These documents will be vital for reviewing the process and determining if there was a deviation from standard surgical practices.

Legal consultation

Consult with a solicitor who specialises in medical negligence. A solicitor can advise you on the strength of your case and guide you through the process of making a claim. They will typically review your medical records, consult with medical experts, and provide a legal perspective on whether negligence occurred.

Emotional support

Dealing with the aftermath of suspected medical negligence can be distressing. It might be helpful to seek support from counselling services to help you cope with any emotional or psychological impact.

Recovering from blepharoplasty usually follows a structured timeline and proper postoperative care is crucial for a successful outcome. Should you encounter any complications or suspect negligence, it is essential to take prompt and informed action to address these concerns effectively.