Recovering from Orbital Decompression Surgery - Part 1
Last updated: May 2023
I was relieved when I was finally scheduled for orbital decompression surgery. In the weeks leading up to surgery, I wanted to prepare myself as much as possible, but I found that there were not a lot of resources online about what to expect during recovery. I can only speak to my own experience, but I hope that by sharing I can help others feel more confident and informed before their big day.
Note: A reminder that every individual is different, and your doctor’s instructions, advice, and procedures may be different than mine. Always consult your doctor about your thyroid eye disease and any related treatments or surgeries.
Pain while recovering from orbital decompression surgery
My pain levels changed as the days/weeks went on. I have very high pain tolerance, but this pain was different. It had roots, deep in my skull. Prescription pain killers helped ease this, and I was able to switch to over-the-counter medication fairly quickly.
The side of my face was numb for a week or so. As the numbness decreased, the nerves began to fire up, and it was the weirdest feeling. It felt like an eye twitch with a little electricity. I also began to get headaches that seemed to stem from deep inside my head. I am somewhat prone to headaches for a variety of reasons, so perhaps it was a combination of multiple factors. In any case, plenty of rest was needed.
Everyday tasks were challenging because it was simply difficult to look around. My eye had a limited range of motion (look too far in one direction - ouch!). Looking down was also tricky. This meant that going for walks by myself would potentially be dangerous. If a car made a sharp turn and was headed my way, I would not be able to turn my head/gaze fast enough. My husband helped me with little tasks and escorted me on short walks.
Perhaps the most painful thing - I was instructed to use a saline nasal spray several times a day. It was like pouring salt on a wound. I tried to soothe the pain with lozenges and ice cream, but they only helped so much. It just took time for my nasal passages to heal.
I was told that the regiment of medications my doctors prescribed would help with the bruising, but nonetheless I was surprised that my bruising was relatively minimal. A week after surgery I ventured out to say hello to friends, and they looked at me in shock - they never would have guessed that I had an invasive surgery just a week prior.
There was swelling all around my eye, though less than I expected. I had a strict regiment involving lots of ice packs, which was later replaced with heat. Sleeping with my head elevated was recommended but uncomfortable. I used a cushioned wedge for two weeks and did not get quite as much sleep as I would have liked.
For the first two days my eye was very sensitive to light, and curtains remained closed. I wore sunglasses whenever I went outside for the next few weeks. My eye was also extremely dry. I was allowed to begin using eye drops a few days post-op, and flooding my eyes with gel drops several times a day improved things.
Sharing my thyroid eye disease surgery experiences
Stay tuned for part two of my experience recovering from orbital decompression surgery as I discuss my second surgery, follow-ups, and results.
Editor's Note: This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Read the second article here.
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