Cornea Transplant Recovery

Total cornea transplant recovery takes longer than recovery from any other eye surgery. The decision to have eye surgery is huge under any circumstances. But a corneal transplant is most invasive. It can leave you permanently blind if things go seriously wrong.

Granted, if you are a candidate for cornea transplant surgery, you may not have any functional vision.

The time and effort required for corneal transplant recovery may not seem so great a hurdle as your ability to see declines.

While a corneal transplant may give you cause for hope, remember that removing your cornea is permanent. About 90% of corneal transplants are successful, this means that 10% fail.

And failure can occur even years after surgery. Once you have a corneal transplant there are no solutions except another full corneal transplant.

Do you have the time and resources to spend on recovery?

Cornea transplant recovery can take from one to two years. During your first post-operative weeks the transplant may be swollen, preventing you from doing normal activities of daily living.

You’ll need someone to help you with ordinary household chores during that time.

Naturally, you’ll want to avoid getting tap water into your eyes, so you should use extreme caution taking showers or baths. Make sure you don’t bump or even rub your eyes.

You should be able to return to work within a week of your corneal transplant. You cannot, however, do any heavy lifting or exercise for several weeks.

So, carefully consider the type of work you do. Some employers offer alternate work for employees until they can resume their full job duties.

You will wear protective glasses and take anti-inflammatory steroid drops for several months. But, also, make sure that nothing gets in your eyes, such as dust or even fumes. Chemical fumes can burn your eyes and damage your vulnerable corneas.

Some patients heal well enough to have their stitches removed in about three months. Others take as long as 17 months.

The average is between six and twelve months before stitches are removed. Still, full cornea transplant recovery is not complete at that time, so you must us your eyes gently.

What about rejection?

You need to be on the alert for signs of rejections throughout your corneal transplant recover period and beyond.

Rejection is higher in patients who have rejected a prior transplant, but the average range is between 5% and 30%. Medications have been used successfully to stop the immune system from “protecting” you from an invader.

You will be instructed to watch for four major signs of rejection associated with the mnemonic RSVP.

If you notice any of these, contact your ophthalmologist immediately:

  • R: redness
  • S: light sensitivity
  • V: vision decreasing or changing
  • P: pain
  • What are your expectations From Cornea Transplant Recovery?

    Getting new corneas won’t mean that your vision will be an automatic 20/20. Vision continues to improve up to a year after surgery.

    The corneas you receive won’t be curved exactly as your corneas were. Most patients prepare to wear either glasses or contact lenses once corneal transplant recovery is completed.

    Some doctors recommend that you wait at least three months after surgery to get new lenses. Others suggest waiting until your stitches are removed.

    Either way, the point is to wait until your vision is stabilized. While your vision may continue to change over the next year or two, at least you can get best-corrected vision soon after your surgery.

    Because the transplanted corneas don’t fit exactly, they may develop irregular shapes. The result is that your vision will have some degree of refractive error. You may be a candidate for laser eye surgery once your stitches are out and healing is complete.

    You should know what caused your corneas to deteriorate to the point where you need transplants. Some diseases could affect your new corneas in a similar way.

    In contrast, if your need resulted from an injury that caused scarring, you need only protect your new sight carefully.


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