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Why Did I Experience Blurry Vision After Anesthesia?

By Essilor News

Going through any type of surgery can be an uncomfortable and stressful experience; however, with the advent of modern anesthesia, surgery is often performed without a patient feeling or remembering anything. Anesthesia consists of several components, including sedation, unconsciousness, immobility, analgesia (lack of pain), and amnesia (lack of memory). Every day about 60,000 people in America have surgery under anesthesia.

Despite the benefits of a numbed surgical experience, anesthesia can result in some unintended side effects. One such residual effect can be blurred vision - a side effect not caused directly by the drug, but often by an abrasion of the cornea, the outermost layer of the eye.

A corneal abrasion in such settings is caused by direct injury to the cornea from things like facemasks, surgical drapes, or other foreign objects. It can also be associated with decreased tear production in the eyes or swelling of the eye in patients lying on their stomach during surgery. This is one of the reasons that your eyes are taped shut during procedures performed under anesthesia.

In a study of 671 patients undergoing non-eye surgeries, about one in 25 patients reported a new onset of blurred vision lasting at least three days after surgery. If this happens, you can also have pain or irritation that feels like a foreign body in the eye. The symptoms are generally transient, and treatment is usually lubricant drops and an antibiotic ointment to prevent bacterial infection.

Interestingly, this kind of injury can also be self-inflicted. As someone comes out of anesthesia but is not completely awake, they will often try to rub their eye or nose with the little oxygen probes still attached to their fingers and accidentally scratch their eyes.

For most people in the study, the symptoms resolved within two months without any complication, but about 1 percent required visits to eye care professionals. Of course, with any eye intrusion or injury, it is recommended to see your eye doctor for a solution.

Although it is an uncommon problem, mention any concerns you may have to your anesthesiologist before the procedure.