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Having your operation for eye cancer

Men and women discussing eye cancer

This page is about what happens before and after you have an eye operation. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Having your operation for eye cancer

It’s natural to feel frightened about eye surgery. And you may worry about what your sight will be like after the operation. Your surgeon will discuss your operation with you beforehand. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you want to. You may also be able to talk to a specialist nurse.

After your eye surgery

If your surgeon needs to remove your eye they may put something in the empty socket to keep its shape while it heals. This is likely to be an orbital implant and a temporary plastic shell called a conformer.

You will have a padded dressing in place after the operation. The dressing might feel quite tight and it may be difficult to open your other eye until the dressing is removed. If your eye has been removed, opening your eyelids for the first time and seeing the socket can come as a shock. If you don’t have a plastic shell (conformer) in place you will see the pink, moist tissue lining the eye socket. Otherwise you will just see the clear plastic shell with a hole in the middle. 

It is really important to remember that your eye will not look like this forever. Once your permanent artificial eye is in place it will look very similar to your other eye.

Before you leave hospital your nurse will show you how to clean and care for your eye or eye socket. If necessary, a district nurse can visit your home to help you with this.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating eye cancer section.

 

 

Your feelings about eye surgery

It’s natural to feel frightened about having eye surgery. The eye is a very sensitive part of the body. Most people will feel worried about a surgeon being so close to and touching their eyes. But you will be asleep during your operation and will not be aware of anything.

You may worry about what your eyesight will be like after the operation. Seeing is such an important part of life. So knowing your eyesight may be affected can be very upsetting. Your surgeon will discuss all these things with you before you have your operation.

If you want more time with your surgeon or specialist nurse to discuss things, don’t be afraid to ask. They will realise how worried you may feel and will be happy to spend more time answering your questions. The most important thing is that you feel as confident as possible about your operation.

Finding out about what the surgery involves can help you to cope. There is information about eye removal (enucleation) as well as other types of eye surgery in this section. We also have information about coping with eye cancer and changes in your eyesight.

 

Before your operation

The basic procedure before your operation is the same whether you are having

You will probably go into hospital the day before your operation. This is to have routine blood tests and sign a consent form. Some centres may do this beforehand in the outpatient department, so you only need to go in on the day of your surgery. Your surgeon may put a mark on your forehead above the eye they are going to operate on.

On the day of your operation, you will have a bath or shower and put on a hospital gown. An hour or two before your operation is due to start, you will have an injection or tablets to make you sleepy. You will also need eye drops to dilate the pupil of your eye. This makes it easier for the surgeon to get a clear view of the inside of the eye.

You will have your eye operation under general anaesthetic, and will usually have to stay in hospital for at least one night. Surgery can make the pressure inside the eyeball rise. That can be dangerous for your eyesight. So your nurses will monitor the pressure in the affected eye very closely.

 

After your operation

After your surgery your nurses will monitor you closely. They will help you with 

Looking after your eye area

If your surgeon needs to remove your eye they may put something in the empty socket to keep its shape while it heals. This is likely to be an orbital implant and a temporary plastic shell called a conformer. This is like a large opaque contact lens covering the front of the eye. Or you might just have the conformer put in. When your eye area heals you can have an artificial eye (prosthesis) put over the implant or in the empty socket.

You will have to have a padded dressing in place for between 12 and 48 hours after the operation. This helps to stop any bleeding and reduces swelling in the tissues of the eye socket. The dressing might feel quite tight and you may find it difficult to open your other eye. At first this can be frightening. But try not to worry about it too much. Once the dressing is taken off you will have no problem opening your other eye.

When the nurse takes the dressing off, they will clean your eyelids and examine the eye or empty eye socket with a small torch. Your surgeon will also come to see you and examine you. Your eyelids and face may be swollen and bruised for a few days after your operation. You could try using cool packs to help reduce the swelling and discomfort. Some people prefer to wear dark glasses during this time until the swelling goes down. Your nurse will leave your eye or socket uncovered to encourage it to heal. You might also need antibiotics to help prevent infections.

Anti sickness and pain medicines

Anaesthetic drugs can make some people feel or be sick. There are anti sickness drugs that can help stop this. If you have any pain in your eye or socket let your nurse know so they can give you some painkillers

Looking at the eye area

If your eye has been removed, opening your eyelids for the first time and seeing the socket can come as a shock. Your nurse or doctor will be with you when this happens. If you don’t have a plastic shell (conformer) in place you will see the pink, moist tissue lining the eye socket. If you do have a shell in place you will just see the clear plastic shell with a hole in the middle.

Give yourself some time to adjust. It’s really important to remember that your eye will not look like this forever. Once your permanent artificial eye is in place it will look very similar to your other eye.

Going home

Before you leave hospital your nurse will show you how to clean and care for your eye. If you have had your whole eye removed, they will explain how to care for the eye socket. You might find it hard to do this for yourself at first. Some people find taking care of the eye and socket distressing and you will need time to get used to it. If you don’t feel able to cope with it yourself, the ward can arrange for a district nurse to visit you at home.

When it is time for you to go home, you may have eye drops to put in for the next few days. These are to help stop eye infection and swelling.

You should have the phone number of the ward in case you are worried about anything when you get home. Your nurse will also make an outpatient appointment for you.

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Updated: 24 June 2015