What to expect during vitrectomy recovery

Hello, I hope someone can provide some help. I have had diabetes 25 years, am 50 years old. Have had better control in the past few years. Anyway, two weeks ago I had a vitrectomy in one eye because of a nasty vitreous hemmorhage that wouldn’t stop. We waited several months, but my eye continued to bleed every day. I lost full sight because I could not see past all the bloodied vitreous gel. When the bandages first came off, I could see pretty well, although my eye hurt and things were hazy. The progress of recovery has been very slow. My vision is really cloudy and there is old blood swirling around in the saline that was put in in place of the vitreous. The doctor said to expect that. I also had extensive lasering and a shot of Avastin during the procedure. I suspect that my eye has bled again, although just a drop or two here and there. Nothing like the volume I experienced before the procedure.

Here are my questions…Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone else, or am I alone in this? How long before good vision returns? I haven’t driven in months and would like to. Should I cancel my life and just sit home? I have an important event at the end of June which I would like to be in good shape for. I’m wondering if I should just bail out now or hanging in there? These are all questions that my doctor either didn’t want to answer or couldn’t answer. He was always vague about when and how long it would take before I would see well again in that eye. The other eye has had some problems, but the doctor says that he is satisfied with the status of that eye for the moment.

Okay, here’s the stupidest question of all…do people still actually go blind from diabetes. I have a friend with similar situation who insists that I WILL NOT lose my eye sight, that medical science has come too far for that to happen to me. I’m hoping that some encouraging words will come from this post. Anyone have any?

Thanks you,

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cinderfella, here is a discussion on vitrectomy


Hey CF!
I have had 1 vitrectomy and 3 PRP’s. The recovery time is always dependent on the individual and their current state of health. However, you should expect 6 months total time to full recovery. I do not remember how long it took until I was able to drive. It is an odd feeling to only be able to look out one eye. My depth of field was skewed while I only had use of my right eye. I wore a pirate patch for most of the recovery time. (one “neat” thing is due to the surgery your pupil is stunned and does not react with the same speed as your good eye, and/or it will not constrict enough, if at all. I could stand in the bathroom with the door shut and no light on and have vision out of that eye due to the LARGE pupil.) The steroid drops really helped the swelling and in turn that helped the pain. When I started to regain vision in that eye I would have to keep the patch on for most of the day as it was a sensory overload for both eyes to be seeing things. It took almost a year for the pupil response to be equal in both eyes. It did return, eventually.
Yes, people still go blind from DM and retinopathy. I have one of the top retinologist in MD and the first thing he told me when I met him was “You are going to go blind, but I am going to make sure that that is not for a long time.” People go blind because they don’t control/manage their DM, they refuse to accept they have DM or what it can do to them or they haven’t acknowledged the symptoms of the disease and took too long to get diagnosed and it was the poor vision or the sudden sharp pain of their retina detaching from their orbit that brings them to the MD.
You have taken the right steps and have gotten treatment for what can now be a manageable situation. Keep going to the retinologist as scheduled and do what they tell you and you will be good as new before you know it.

Hi, Tim: Thank you for posting. When I read your post under another vitrectomy discussion, your description of events sounded the most like mine. I had the vitrectomy two weeks ago and am looking through the red haze. The reason I had the procedure in the first place was a blood vessel that had grown into the vitreous had started to bleed and it bled every day for about two and a half months. My eye was never able to clear out to any degree so that the doctor could laser the troublesome blood vessel. So, we went with the vitrectomy. I have no pain any more and outwardly, my eye looks completely normal, but I suspect that there is continued bleeding going on in there. Nothing to the degree as before, but each day I notice that the red haze gets a little thicker. I see the doctor again at the end of next week. He seemed to think that my eye was clearing out, but you couldn’t prove it by me. Was it your experience that things got worse before they got better? The day the bandage came off, I could actually see quite well and things looked clear, but I can’t say that’s the case at this point.

Also, I seem to have a lot of motion going on in that eye–a fluttering effect that happens off and on, a swirling of light effect in my periferral vision that looks almost like pinwheels going around and somethings that looks like strands waving in the breeze. Any of this sound familiar to you? And, yes, my doctor said the same thing to me when I went to see him during this last round of treatments–that I’m going to lose my eye sight if I don’t deal with this stuff ASAP. I didn’t now if that was just his scare tactics or what.

Any further information you can provide will be much appreciated.

Thank you,

My personal experience…

I had a vitrectomy on my left eye two years ago. I too had a nasty hemorrhage that continued for several months and wouldn’t clear on its own. I couldn’t see out of the eye, though laser treatments were being done every two weeks to try to stop some of the bleeding. Finally I had no choice but surgery. I too had some laser done during the vitrectomy.

Unlike you, however, I could not see when the bandages came off. The vision in that eye was completely clouded over white. I was told I was seeing light, but that my eye had continued to bleed post-surgery and that there was blood in the saline. I was told it would settle and dissipate and get better - most of the other weak vessels in my eyes, and a a lot of scar tissue, had also been removed.

It took a full 6 weeks before I could start to see ANYTHING besides pure white out of my left eye. It took another 4 weeks after that before I was seeing pretty much ‘normally’ (or, normal for me).

I did lose peripheral vision, depth perception, and much of my color vision…however, I believe this was because of the extensive laser I had done for years, sometimes several times a month, and not from the vitrectomy.

Since the vitrectomy that eye has remained stable and has not had ANY problems. My other eye has some issues, but they are infrequent and clear up after about a week without treatment.

I didn’t start driving until a few weeks ago, but only because of the vision loss associated with the laser treatments.

Don’t put your life on hold! Can you see out of one eye? You’d be surprised how well you can do at most things with vision in just one eye, if you are really determined. I was student teaching during the months of bleeding that led to my vitrecomy, I had the surgery during ‘spring break’ and then went back and did 2 more months of student teaching while seeing only from one eye!

What I remember from the day they took the bandage off was it was brighter than the other eye, the vision was not clear and I was seeing through a reddish haze. Then I nearly vomited. The doc said that was normal. Post operatively I only took the pirate patch off to administer the eye drops. Because the eyes work in unison I really tried not to use the other eye more than I needed to. When I did it caused a headache because the solo eye had to compensate for the missing half of the vision. I would say that if your retinologist believes that things are getting better then trust them. Sometimes it is darkest before the dawn. As far as the external appearance of the orbit - I had a hematoma at the points of entry into the eye. That eventually disappeared. I found that when my eye “hurt” if i applied a slight amount of pressure to it (usually I put that side of my face into a pillow) the pain went away. My retinologist ok’d that.
Patience and trust in your doc are the two most important things you can contribute to your recovery.
In response to the symptoms you are experiencing - light effects could be from your retina and definitely warrant telling your retinologist about. I had the strands waving in the breeze experience as well and that also disappeared. Of course, bottom line is tell your doc any and all symptoms you are experiencing.
I wish you an uneventful recovery. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have or if you just want to shot the breeze.

My story is different than others - I had no saline solution, they used a gas. So I was a walking talking level and could see the light refract off the liquid gas interface. Mine was done almost 20 years ago. Left eye in 92, right eye in 93. They did not wait after the vessel ruptured, rather they scheduled surgery right away. All pain was gone in a few days and I was back to work and driving in about 6 weeks. I had to wait for the vitreous fluid to regrow and displace the gas bubble - it was kinda fun watching the gas bubble float down as everything we see is inverted. I had no red vision. The good news is that no changes or degradation since. Every new eye dr or retina specialist I see comments on the quality of thee work (Dr Feman - Vanderbuilt University - I amtold among the best).

Lasting changes are an inability to see small fonts, eyesight corrected to 20 30 or 20 40, Cataracts in both eyes, Tunnel bision but I praise the Lord that I can see - there was I time where i feared blindness and shame on the dr that said you are going to go blind with proper care we should not fear blindness!!

Does anyone know how long it takes for the vitreous to regrow? Is it days, weeks, months? I have never gotten a clear answer on this.

mine was 6 weeks I had to watch the gas bubble and could not return to work until the vitreous completely displaced the gas. About the same in each eye

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Hi, I had a vitrectomy 18 months ago…I have had a very slow healing process. My hemorrhage was sudden, I had just been for a 6 month retina check and he actually said if he did not know I was diabetic he would not be able to tell by looking into my eye… I had complained about seeing tiny gnat-like black spots. I found out later that he was checking only the area around my optic nerve, that he never checked my peripheral vessels. I too am in my 50’s and have had type1 diabetes for over 25 years. I had been on aspirin therapy for years (1 regular aspirin/day). They told me that probably the aspirin was a large contributor to the extend of the bleeding and their inability to stop it. So my hemorrhage occurred from the peripheral vessels only, which required extensive laser treatments during the vitrectomy and twice later. I still see a few floaters now and then of spiderweb-like structures and a few black spots. My retinologist explained that they were old vitreous, That it is almost impossible to get every bit of it. Eventually the eye will replace the saline with vitreous.

But as a result of the procedure my lens went completely opaque and so one month after the vitrectomy I had a lens replacement (cataract surgery). since then it has been a very slow process of trying to increase the tear production in that eye for I had severe dry eye before the whole procedure (another problem not diagnosed by the same eye doctor who missed my peripheral vessels). Over the Winter months I developed dry patches on my cornea but now that Spring is here they have healed up and I hope they stay that way. I wear a bandage contact that helps me to see more clearly. My vision is much better now, I have to use rehydrating drops all day long but I can see pretty clearly although my peripheral vision is much diminished because of the laser treatments.

If your bleed was from peripheral vessels is is a better prognosis but if the bleed occurs from the macular area around the optic nerve the treatment is much more difficult.

My doctors were all very vague until I pressed them for answers. I think eye doctors are all like that. Not good at treating the whole person, only the eye. But my Retinologist specializes in Diabetic retinopathy, I am confident he is good and am pleased with the outcome. I never expected to be able ot ever see this well but it takes time. Do not put your life on hold, go have some fun. I drive, and I also work in a Medical lab where I look through a microscope everyday. Your other eye will compensate for the weaker one and hopefull, with time your “bad” eye will grow clearer. Best of luck, i know how you feel and will send well wishes your way…

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Hi, Kari: I recently re-read your post. I am now three months post-operative of my vitrectomy. My eye has cleared out and I have pretty good central vision. I seem to have lost a good deal of peripheral vision though. There was a lot of lasering done while the doctor was doing the vitrectomy. As I said, I see well in the center, but all around the edges is grey. I can not see people approaching me from the left side. I can not see things at my feet unless I actually look down at the floor. You say in your post that you only started driving a short time ago after having had a vitrectomy two years ago. Were you able to start driving again because the peripheral vision finally healed and got better? I can’t seem to get any clear cut answers to when and if my peripheral vision will return. It does make driving more difficult. I have to make sure a really turn my head and face whatever it is I’m trying to look at. Naturally, I’m looking for encouragement. I’m mostly wondering whether or this will eventually improve. How long is long enough to consider my eye fully recovered. Can you shed any light on this?

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Hi Cinderella
My dad had a vitrectomy 1,5 months ago, and he only has 1 good eye, he lost the vision from the other eye in an accident when he was young.
So you can imagine that the recovery process has be been like he’ll.
He done the cirurugy due to an internal bleeding.
About the cirurugy, the doctor said that it was a success the retina was good and didn’t distatch and now is just wait.
The doctor fulfill the eye globe with gas…At this point in time the gas has been replaced by the liquid.
Now now my questions.
During the recovery is normal to have improvements and after a while had some steps back?
Now the new fluid is not clear have some things mixed and don’t allow my dad to see.
Did you pass through the same thing?
In the last day we went to the doctor he said that one more month and he will recover.
How long did you take until you start seeing from the eye?
Your liquid became not clear before it becomes clear?
After the gas disappear how long did you take until you start seeing a little bit the enough to be independent and at least to watch a movie or something… As you can imagine my dad is missing all the hope and if he didn’t recovery I think he might… Sorry
Just let me know about your recovery process after the replacement of the gas…
Many thanks for everything I already read about your recovery process.

That vitrectomy was now six years ago. I have since had the other eye done as well. I think it was about a month before I was able to see again. My eye was very cloudy at first.

I didn’t have gas put in my eye. I had saline.

It takes a little while to recover. It’s a good month or two. And sometimes things get worse before they get better. We must all be patient and trust the doctors.

Best of luck to your loved one.

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