Cataracts – Grace Discovers She Has Them In Both Eyes

This is a story about cataracts. Actually, it is my story. And I am writing it in the hope that it may reassure any of you who have been recently diagnosed with cataracts and are facing surgery.

DAY ONE

I am used to my annual optician appointment being a very routine affair. I am extremely short sighted and, without my contacts or Coke-bottle spex, have only a very blurry ethereal view of the world. Plus I am lucky enough (ha bloody ha) to have a swarm of floaters in my right eye – something lots of us older women (and men) have to live with. Despite my substandard vision, my prescription hasn’t changed for years.

This time however was different. Apparently my right eye is changing, fast. And not for the better.

“You need cataract surgery” my optician announced. I looked blankly at her. I thought a cataract was an opaque membrane over an eyeball – and I knew I didn’t have that. She explained that cataracts are very common as we age and is a clouding of the lens inside the eye which leads to loss of vision. Cataracts often develop slowly and can affect one or both eyes. Symptoms may include faded colors, blurry vision, halos around light, trouble with bright lights, and trouble seeing at night.

Cataract surgery involves replacing the existing lens with an artificial replacement. “Will it hurt?” No, she reassured me. “Takes ten minutes. They’ll do one eye on one day and the other about a week later. But the best news is that your vision will be fully corrected so you won’t need to wear spex or contacts ever again.” I wasn’t sure whether to be worried or over the moon.

DAY TWO

Had a pretty restless night. How much time do I have before the cataracts are fully formed and I can’t see? Days, weeks, months, years? Will the insurance company cough up? Will the operation be completely safe? I don’t quite have the nerve to use Dr. Google. Somehow ignorance seems preferable to potentially frightening information. Not very sensible I know.

THREE MONTHS LATER

I won’t bore you with the details of my 14+ week tussle with my private health insurers, except to say that they finally agreed to pay for my cataract surgery. Usually, you phone your private health insurance provider and are given approval and a claim reference immediately. You can, of course, have cataract surgery on the NHS – the waiting time is around 18 weeks if you believe their website; but according to several people I know, it can be much longer.

Armed (finally) with my insurance claim reference, the day dawned for my consultation with the eye surgeon. Husband drove me to my appointment as I wasn’t allowed to drive afterwards. They gave me eye drops (slight sting on first one, nothing with the second) so that my pupils dilated and biometric measurements could be taken.

The surgeon was impressed by the “spectacular number of floaters” I had and said he could remove them at the same time as replacing the lens in my right eye. This procedure is called a vitrectomy. I cannot tell you how exciting this news was for me – floaters are, quite frankly, buggers to live with. There are translucent grey worms swimming slowly in my field of vision as I type this.

Equally thrilling, he explained that once the operations were completed (there would need to be two, one eye at a time), it was highly unlikely that I would ever need spex or contact lenses again as my vision should be near perfect (apart from needing reading glasses which I am used to anyway). If you are reading this and are considering surgery yourself, you may be a candidate for multi-focal lenses which means you wouldn’t even need readers).

I must wear my bottle top spex for at least a week to let my eyeball return to its natural shape. Then I will be ready for the first operation which will be performed under local anaesthetic, as a day case. The leaflets I have been given about the operation make it sound like a breeze, but I shall definitely be taking up the option of a sedative and/or a nurse’s hand to squeeze during the operation! My dates are all booked in – so this is really happening!

To see how I got on with my ops, click here

18 Comments

  1. Dear Grace – I so appreciate your description and treatment for cataracts. It is most helpful and useful to know. I was told there is nothing one can do about “floaters” and now I know different thanks to your column. I look forward to hearing about the next stage. Good luck and best wishes. THANK YOU ! for this most informative update.

    • Hi Andi, good to hear from you. My follow up post will be published later this month on the 23rd. Spoiler alert – both ops were painless and I now have 20/20 vision… amazing. Do give me a call if you would like any more info ie which surgeon I used. Hope all good with you and J… x

  2. Thank you for the reassuring post on eye operations. I will have to have one sometime soon and I am terrified at the thought of anyone operating on my eye. Please keep us posted on how it goes. I hope they can completely knock me out as its a real phobia for me.

    • Hi Christine, my follow up post won’t be published until 23 March but, to save you worrying in the meantime, I found the anticipation before my first op was the worst part ie the operation itself was a breeze. I had a relaxant (painlessly) injected into my hand – the effect was immediate. I could have been sitting poolside with a cocktail in my hand and the sun shining on my face for all I knew or cared. So, when it came for op#2, I didn’t worry beforehand for even one millisecond. I went to Optegra as it was recommended by my optician and a couple of friends who had used them. Now I’ve had both eyes done I also think highly of them. So, please don’t worry – you can’t feel (or see) a thing during the op and I had no pain afterwards either – just the joy of being able to see without spex or contacts after 50 years of wearing them! Best wishes, Grace

  3. Hello Grace, I’m hoping to have the operation this year and I can’t wait I’ve worn glasses and contacts for 20 something years,so it will be great to have 20/20 vision ‘and you have put my mind at rest now reading your column. Thank you Grace keep up the good work ,I will let you know when I’ve had mine done .Lynn

    • I have had a cataract operation last July Privately. I haven’t been able to see properly in that eye since, I had a Multi Focal implant and it’s as though I have a veil over the eye. I have moved to another surgeon for the second one due 8th April 2019. If I was to give any advice to anyone wanting to see near and far go for the Mono focal lenses. Don’t consider that the cataract surgery is just a routine thing, it shouldn’t be done without you being told all the facts. I am not having another multi focal lens which I was told was the best on the market and how much they had improved since my husband had them done twelve years ago and never has had any problems. My husbands was done by a different surgeon.

      • Hi Jacqueline. Thank you so much for getting in touch and commenting on your experience of multi focal lens surgery. I am so sorry that you didn’t get the result you were expecting. Please let us know how you get on in April; if it’s any comfort, I had mono focal implants and my eyesight is top notch now. Good luck with your second op. Best wishes, Grace

  4. Hi Grace

    I have had cataract surgery on both my eyes. It’s hard to believe, but there’s really nothing to be worried about as it is so quick and the results are totally amazing!

    MY DH has also had cataract surgery and he is even more pleased than me. He had always been short sighted from a child and his vision is now far, far better than it ever has been.

    I wish you the very best and am sure that you will be reporting back to us that you needn’t have worried!

    Valerie in The Marches

    • Hi Valerie. Thanks so much for getting in touch. Yes, the anticipation is far worse than the op and, as you say, the results are incredible. Isn’t 20/20 vision amazing? Best wishes, Grace

    • Hi Kate, Funny you should mention that because I went for a walk on the beach about a week after my second op and unexpectedly a wind blew up and sand was swirling everywhere! I had to walk back to our car with my coat over my head – I couldn’t see a thing – luckily my husband guided me. Wish I had thought to take sunglasses. Best wishes, Grace

  5. A message from Janet:

    Reading your recent post on cataracts was the kick up the bottom I needed to book a (very!) long overdue eye-test. It’s free up here in Bonny Scotland – so absolutely no excuse whatsoever!

    Anyway, as I too have the dreaded floaters and given that driving at night has become more challenging than I would like it to be, I have taken inspiration from you and booked a test.

    Thank you and Good Luck with all the post-op stuff.
    Janet x

  6. Hi Grace hope the op went well – you won’t know yourself! I’ve had both mine done too . Like you I have bad floaters – unlike you it wasn’t suggested that the op might help . I wondered if it did help yours? Hope you don’t mind me asking. Cheers!

    • Hi Wendy. Ops did go well thank you – both completely painless and worry-free. Yes, floaters gone – what a relief. My particular surgeon is an expert in vitrectomy surgery so it felt safe to have that procedure as well as the cataract surgery for my right eye as my floaters were, as surgeon put it “spectacular!”. I do have a few floaters in my left eye and, if and when they get worse, I shan’t hesitate to go back to have another vitrectomy. Best wishes, Grace

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