Mr Venki Sundaram
Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
MD FRCOphth MRCOphth BMBCh BSc

The Do’s and Don’ts of Travelling After Eye Surgery

Plane wing flying

Eye surgery tends to have a quicker recovery time than other types of surgeries. If you’re eager to get back to normal life, you’re likely to want to travel, whether that be flying across the globe or taking a road trip cross country… let’s take a look at what you should and shouldn’t do when embarking on a trip after eye surgery. 

DO…

Talk to your surgeon 

The first thing is to get advice from your ophthalmic surgeon, tailored to your own situation. They’ll tell you what you can expect in the days and weeks following your eye surgery, and explain any self-care you’ll need to do, such as applying eye drops or avoiding water. You can tell them your plans and ask them for advice on your trip. This may include best practice for self-administering medication if on the plane or by the pool.

Know your recovery time 

There are some things that are likely to be the same for all patients. Recovery time from cataract surgery is typically short. You’ll need to wear an eye shield at night for a few days following surgery, and you are likely to be given eye drops to apply for about a week afterwards. You won’t be allowed to drive home after surgery and you shouldn’t take public transport straight after your operation, so be sure to arrange a lift or book a taxi. 

Check flight regulations 

Different airlines often have different policies on flying with a medical condition or immediately after surgery, so check these carefully if you’re planning a flight around the time of your procedure. 

The Civil Aviation Authority recommends waiting at least 1 day after cataract surgery or retinal laser surgery before boarding a flight. If you’re using antibiotic or anti-inflammatory eye drops, you’ll need to bring these with you in your hand luggage. Check your airline’s policy on liquids before you fly.  

In most cases, this is limited to 100ml which means you should be okay considering eye drops tend to be in much smaller bottles. However, if not, decanter the necessary amount into smaller containers.

Tell your insurance company 

If you’re travelling after surgery, you should tell your insurance company, or your travel insurance may be invalid. Letting them know of any changes in your health is vital in order to benefit from insurance cover if you may need it and avoid any extravagant pay outs.

It may be worth taking out additional travel insurance to make sure you’re definitely covered. You are then safe in case of any sort of emergency, giving peace of mind to enjoy your holiday and relax.

Comply with DVLA regulations 

If you are not travelling abroad but eager to get behind the wheel and resume daily activities or take a short trip somewhere local, it’s important that you do this legally and safely.

The DVLA stipulates that you must be able to read a number plate from a distance of 20 metres in order to drive. You can wear glasses to do this but if you need a new prescription after surgery, you’ll need to wait until your follow-up appointment, which could be a few weeks. 

Remember, there is always public transport or your other half to get you from A to B whilst you wait!

DON’T…

Don’t miss an appointment 

Many people are fit to travel as little as a day after eye surgery, but if you have a follow-up appointment booked with your surgeon for the following week, it’s important that you attend. For your own benefit and to not waste anyone’s time, when planning your surgery and your trip, check with your surgeon to ensure that you know when all your appointments are. 

Don’t be unprepared 

If you’re travelling to another country, or even to an unfamiliar part of the UK, it’s good to be prepared in case you need medical attention or supplies. Take enough eye drops and/or medication with you to last the whole of your trip, and find out how to access pharmacies and emergency medical care. When you’re fully prepared, it’s much easier to let go of any worries and simply enjoy your trip. 

Don’t take any chances

Along with knowing your recovery time comes not taking any chances. If you don’t feel overly comfortable with travelling so soon after your procedure or begin to feel unwell or in pain once in an unfamiliar environment – SEEK ADVICE.

It is not worth the risk of developing infection or further issues by not taking care of yourself in the appropriate way. If you are concerned whilst away, visit a local pharmacy or emergency doctor to ease your mind and ensure nothing is wrong.

Do you have any further questions about eye surgery? Mr Venki Sundaram will be happy to reassure you. Just contact us to book an appointment today.