A guide to exercising after surgery

By improving your vision, eye surgery can improve your ability to exercise, once you give yourself a chance to heal.

“When can I play golf?” This is the sports question most frequently asked by Dr. Andrew Iwach of patients undergoing eye surgery. “When they come to surgery, it’s ‘I can’t see the golf ball,'” says Iwach, executive director of the Glaucoma Center in San Francisco and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Then it’s, ‘Now I can see the golf ball and I want to go play. “”

When undergoing eye surgery for conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and retinal detachment, protecting your healing eye and preserving your vision are clearly top priorities. Avoiding eye trauma, infections, and spikes in blood pressure is imperative during the aftermath of surgery. Minimally invasive procedures can reduce recovery time, but they are not for everyone.

“With traditional surgeries, the incisions are larger and healing takes longer, so the time patients need to return to their activities is longer,” says Iwach. Surgical wounds resulting from fresh eye incisions may be vulnerable to hemorrhaging or bleeding. Patients should be careful to avoid straining or lifting, to avoid disrupting a series of extremely thin and fragile blood vessels at the back of the eye, he explains.

“What’s critical is having that conversation with the eye surgeon — the ophthalmologist,” or someone in the eye office ahead of time, Iwach says. “It’s important to define what your experience as a patient will be after surgery.”

Avoiding heavy lifting can prevent sudden increases in blood pressure that can affect the eye itself. Keeping your head at heart level or higher also helps maintain normal blood pressure. It’s recommended to stay away from activities that constrict your abdominal cavity and potentially increase that pressure — like sit-ups — while your eye is still healing, he says.

About Shirley A. Tamayo

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