Post Operative Eye Drops for Eye Surgery | The Eye ProfessionalsEye drops administered after eye surgery can help your eye heal, prevent wound infection, and ease the post-operative discomfort that comes after any ophthalmic surgery. The following is a discussion of post-operative eye drop types that are commonly used after cataract, glaucoma, corneal, and retinal surgeries.

ANTIBIOTIC DROPS

These eye drops usually have a tan colored top. The drops are clear and may be prescribed for use 4 times per day.

Eye drops do not penetrate the eye very well, meaning they don’t reach the inner portion of your eye, but are instead meant to keep the surgical incision (place where your surgeon cut your eye) and the surface of your eye from becoming infected.

Because eye drops do not penetrate the eye very well, antibiotic eye drops are not effective against endophthalmitis, an infection in the inner eye following intraocular surgery.   Fortunately, endophthalmitis is rare, with less than one case in every couple thousand of eye surgeries.

ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DROPS

These eye drops usually have a white or pink cap.  Anti-inflammatory eye drops relieve swelling, pain, and irritation following eye surgery.

Most patients have some degree of inflammation after ophthalmic surgery so all patients need inflammatory control after surgery. Many eye doctors prefer a steroid called prednisolone acetate 1% (e.g. Pred Forte, Omnipred) or Durezol. 

Anti-inflammatory eye drops are milky white. The eye drops are a suspension, which means the eye drops contain microscopic particles of an anti-inflammatory drug that settles out when the bottle sits undisturbed, so you must shake the eye drops to re-mix the particles before instilling them in your eye.

DILATING DROPS

These drops have a bright red cap. The drops are like the ones used to dilate your eyes for an examination. Some operations and some surgeons require dilating drops after surgery.

Retina surgeons commonly use dilating drops at the end of surgery to keep the pupil dilated during recovery. This means that the eye will be sufficiently dilated for a comprehensive follow-up exam the day after surgery and patients won’t have to wait 20 to 30 minutes for their eyes to dilate.  Cataract surgeons generally choose to do the reverse, that is, get the pupil as small as possible at the end of cataract surgery.

Some dilating drops induce cycloplegia in addition to simple pupillary dilation. Cycloplegia is the paralysis of the ciliary muscle of the eye and the reason some dilating drops have cycloplegia effects is to prevent post-surgical ciliary muscle spasms which can cause discomfort and sometimes severe pain.

The ciliary muscle is the muscle that surround the lens of your eye and alters the shape of your lens to accommodate different vision needs. For example, the ciliary muscle contracts and increases the curve of the lens for close vision and it relaxes so your lens is less curved and better able to focus on objects in the distance.  

The dilating and paralysis effects wear off in 2 to 48 hours depending on the strength of the eye drops.

Follow the specific guidance of your own eye doctor with regard to use of your post-operative drops.