Eyelid surgery, or blepharoplasty, can help make you look younger by giving you eyes that look more awake and alert. While many patients recover from eyelid surgery without any side effects or complications, one complication that can occur is dry eyes. Depending on the patient, dry eyes can be temporary after the procedure and resolve on their own after a few days or weeks, or they can persist for much longer following the surgery.

If you are concerned about dry eyes, either before you have the procedure or afterwards, it’s important to speak with your surgeon to find out what you can do to reduce your risks or to treat the dryness.

Dry Eyes Before Surgery

Having dry eyes before the surgery does put you at a greater risk for having dry eyes after surgery, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to avoid the procedure entirely. It’s important to discuss your dry eyes with a surgeon beforehand.

Your surgeon will try to determine the cause of your dry eyes, which can affect whether or not you’re a good candidate for the surgery. For example, dry eyes can be related to a condition such as an overactive thyroid. Treating the overactive thyroid might be essential before undergoing eyelid surgery, to reduce the risk for permanent dry eye afterwards or for other complications.

In some cases, dry eyes occur due to dry eye syndrome, which often occurs when patients are unable to produce a significant amount of tears or when the tears aren’t of good quality, meaning they aren’t made up of a balance of ingredients, including mucin, water and oil. Dry eye syndrome can develop due to a number of reasons, from getting older to using hormonal birth control. Exposure to smoke or otherwise polluted air can also contribute to dry eyes.

If a patient is concerned about having dry eyes before eyelid surgery, a surgeon can perform an analysis of the tears to see if the patient is producing enough of them and to judge the quality of the tears. The surgeon might need to adjust the surgery to reduce the risk of exacerbating the dry eyes or recommend postponing or canceling the surgery, if needed.

Eyelid Surgery and Dry Eyes

Even people who didn’t previously have dry eyes might develop them following eyelid surgery, for a few reasons. The surgery alters a patient’s ability to blink, at least for a little while, which means that tears aren’t spread over the eye in the right fashion. Changes to the tear film or changes to the shape or looseness of the eyelid, particularly the lower eyelid, can also lead to dry eyes after surgery.

Dry eyes after eyelid surgery are often uncomfortable, but they generally aren’t a major concern if not connected to another medical issue. Interestingly enough, one of the main symptoms of dry eye is excessive tearing. Other symptoms of dry eye include a gritty, burning feeling and sensitivity to light.

Coping With Them

There are a number of ways to cope with dry eyes after eyelid surgery. Eye drops, such as saline solution, can help ease the discomfort caused by dry eyes and provide moisture and lubrication to the eye area. Depending on the severity of the dry eye, a thicker ointment or lubricant might be needed. Dry eye ointments are usually best used at night, just before bed, as they can cause blurred vision due to their thickness.

Chances of Dry Eye

A study published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery in 2013 looked to find out the number of patients who had symptoms of dry eye after eyelid surgery and to figure out the connection between certain surgical procedures and dry eyes. The study examined patients at a single practice over the course of 10 years, between 1999 and 2009. Patients were asked to complete a survey to self-report dry eye symptoms.

The study included nearly 900 patients and found that just over a quarter of them reported symptoms of dry eye. It found that people who had both upper and lower eyelid surgery were more likely to experience dry eye, as were people who were using hormone therapy, such as birth control.

Dry eye after eyelid surgery can be unpleasant to deal with, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent problem. An initial consultation with a board certified facial plastic surgeon, such as Dr. Kyle Choe, can help reduce your risk for dry eye symptoms or help you cope with the symptoms after surgery. If you are in the Virginia Beach area and are considering eyelid surgery, call 757.389.5850 for an appointment today.