I am only in my fifties, and so I was surprised when I described the glare issues I was having with my eye doctor and she said that my cataracts might be causing them. I knew I had very tiny cataracts in both eyes, but honestly thought I wouldn’t need to do anything about them until my seventies or eighties.
Boy, was I wrong!
They did a glare test (reading the eye chart with a bright light coming at your eye from the side) and I flunked it. I was losing 50-65% of my visual acuity when there was glare. My doctor suggested that I visit an ocular surgeon and discuss cataract removal and intraocular implants. I had heard of this before, and after discovering that the cataracts were in my line of sight and this situation was not going to get better on its own, I called for an appointment.
A little history here: I have poor eyesight and got glasses by third grade. By fifth grade, my eyesight was deteriorating so quickly that the optometrist recommended that my parents talk to an ophthalmologist about contact lenses. I was ten years old. Contact lenses back then were thick plastic shells, and they cost a bundle! Any parent will tell you, that combination would give them pause. However, it was clear that this was the only way my eyes would stop changing since hard contacts actually shape the cornea through molding. The doctors were right and my downhill slide was halted to a slow crawl. I still remember the hard times and light sensitivity with those initial lenses, but it was outweighed by the miracle of seeing individual leaves on the trees for the first time.
I have worn hard contacts (now Rigid Gas Permeable RGP) for over 40 years and now, we were going to have to let my eyes go back to their normal shape before surgery could be considered. This would mean heavy, bifocal glasses and a series of different soft contacts as my eyes relaxed and changed.
Bring. It. On.
I have always had this fantasy of waking up and being able to see. I have no memory of that sensation. Waking up means fumbling in the dark for my heavy glasses that leave dents in my nose and give me a headache if I wear them too long. It means peering futilely at the alarm clock to see what time it is, and finally resorting to grabbing the glasses. And waking up has always meant that I am initially pretty darned helpless because everything is an amorphous blur.
After weeks of waiting and checking, I got the approval to have surgery on my left eye. I started eye drops two days before and wore my glasses everywhere as instructed. On December 10th, I went in for surgery. My surgeon and I chose the monofocal lens for distance since I wanted the same visual acuity I had with my RGP lenses and did not mind using reading glasses. There are more options, but be clear on the costs involved.
I arrived at 7:30 am, filled out paperwork and got prepped by the excellent surgical staff (Be prepared to have that eye dilated more than you ever have before!) and at about 9:30 am I was rolled into the operating room where they made me very comfortable and warm, gave me anesthesia that relaxed me, and the surgery began. All I saw was a bright, colored light and drops that they kept putting in my eye to numb it. I was in and out in 18 minutes. Seriously.
In recovery, my eye was still quite dilated, so vision was not clear, but I could already see glimpses of better eyesight, even with a clear plastic shield taped over it! I went home and ate some breakfast and took a long nap. When I woke, even the small amount of irritation was gone and I spent the rest of the day relaxing and using the prescription eye drops.
I kept the shield on through the night (and will wear it only at night for a week) and when I woke that morning, my fantasy came true…at least on one side. I could see! I gleefully snatched off the shield (mistake; even paper tape will take your skin with it if you don’t remove it carefully) and looked at everything. I was still just a little dilated, and it does take some time to adjust, but I have the beginning of great eyesight in that eye. I also got a surprise as I realized how much brighter everything was, and how my other, untreated eye sees with a yellowish cast. I was seeing real colors again!
I had a check up with my doctor and will come back to see her in one week. If all is good, we will move on to the right eye and my New Year may be a bright one, indeed.
If you have cataracts and are considering this surgery, I hope my experience will encourage you to check it out. I will never worry about cataracts again, and although I may still need reading glasses from time to time, I will NOT be putting them on over contact lenses!
January 5, 2015, Update: The second eye was done on New Year’s Eve (do I know how to party, or what??) with the same great results. My eyes feel so much less tired and lack the bloodshot allergy/contact appearance I had grown used to. Happy New Year, everyone!
April 28, 2016, Update: The second eye got hazy over time, and at first I thought, “Oh well, I still see better. I guess this is as good as it gets.”
I was wrong. At my checkup this month, it was clear that the vision had declined in that eye and my doctor said, “Oh, the membrane behind that lens has gotten cloudy. That happens in about 60% of all of these procedures. We will just schedule you for a “YAG” and in about 2 minutes, that membrane will be removed and the haziness will be gone forever.”
The next week I came in, had the eye numbed, checked and dilated, they put a contact lens full of goo in my eye, I saw about a minute and a half of bright lights and voila! The haze was gone and my vision is crystal clear! Still a fan, my friends.