How to Help Your Child Recover From Strabismus Surgery

Posted on: 22 March 2017

If your child has strabismus (colloquially known as crossed eyes), an eye doctor may have recommended corrective surgery. Surgery is the ideal treatment option for strabismus. Contrary to popular belief, the condition doesn't always correct itself. Surgical correction offers the most likely chance of improved vision and better quality of life. Many parents worry about putting their child through surgery as they believe the recovery period will be too stressful for a young person. However, with a little planning and care, it's easy to help your child recover. 

Wipe Away Discharge

During the first few days after strabismus surgery, children may experience some discharge or unusual secretions from the eye. These can seem alarming at first, but there's nothing to worry about. The first thing parents usually notice is blood-streaked tears on the day your child leaves the operating theatre. The second eye secretion that follows surgery is mucus. Neither of these are anything to worry about. The blood comes from the small incisions made to the eye, which is full of blood vessels. Mucus is another natural response; it can be sticky or dry, but will do no harm. The best thing to do is to wipe away tears and mucus using a clean, damp washcloth. 

Offer Pain Relief

Some children feel little pain after strabismus surgery and are happy to sleep off any discomfort. Others may complain of soreness around the eyes, particularly when looking around. In this case, there is no harm in offering your child an over-the-counter paediatric painkiller according to the instructions on the packaging. Pain should subside after a few days to a week. If the pain is not severe enough to warrant painkillers or you're hesitant to administer them, many children can get relief from a cold, damp washcloth over the eyes, particularly if they have swelling.

Expect Swelling & Bruising

On the subject of swelling, it's important not to panic if your child's eyes appear swollen. Bruising is also to be expected after surgery, including red brushing on the eye itself. Bruising and swelling can look scary, but they will get better over the following month. If your child is old enough to understand their surgery, you should also reassure them about bruising and swelling. Many children have strabismus surgery to improve interaction with their peers, so this strange appearance can be disheartening if they don't know how long it will last.

Resume Normal Activity

Returning to normalcy is an important part of recovering from any surgery. Luckily, unlike serious surgeries, strabismus surgery doesn't have any significant impact on daily activity. Children can return to their normal life quickly after surgery without worry. They may choose to abstain from school until bruising and swelling subside, but eating, playing, and doing homework should be no problem. For children with additional vision problems, it's safe to resume wearing glasses as soon as they've woken up from surgery. The only activities you should keep them away from are those which could irritate the eye. Swimming, for example, should be avoided for a few days, as should washing hair. Some children may also find it more comfortable to avoid TV, computers, and video games for a short while. 

Be Patient

The final important part of recovery from strabismus surgery is patience. The results seen immediately after surgery are rarely the final results. Alongside pain, bruising, and swelling, double vision or persistent crossed eyes may still persist for several days after surgery. Sometimes the eyes don't appear fully aligned until your child has healed. If you and your child are worried about the results, the best thing to do is wait patiently for them to get better. After all, strabismus surgery is supposed to improve quality of life; the last thing your child should be doing is feeling negative.