Cataract Surgery



WIH: 20 Oct 12

On Oct 10th I had my second cataract operation, this one on the left eye, and it seems to have gone equally well as the first. For distance viewing, I'm now 20/20 in the right eye and 20/25 in the left eye. For reading or computer use, I'm able to use a pair of reading glasses from the drug store rack.

Since cataract troubles are common among seniors, I decided to post some quotes that came in the information package that preceded surgery.                     "A cataract is the name given to the condition when the lens of the eye becomes clouded, causing vision in that eye to become blurred. Patients describe the vision as 'looking through dirty glass' or 'looking through a fog'. It is a fairly common condition in patients in their senior years, and although the exact cause of cataracts is not known, an aging process of the lens, exposure to ultraviolet light, familial factors as well as some drugs like Cortisone can play a role. Once a cataract has developed, the only treatment known to improve vision in that eye is to surgically remove the clouded lens. With modern surgical techniques, the lens can be then be replaced with a specially designed artificial lens which is implanted in the eye."                                                                                          "Most modern surgeons now prefer to remove the cataract with a specialized technique known as phacoemulsification. A very small incision is made into the eye and the cataract is removed using ultrasonic power from a special probe. (This is not laser like many people wrongly refer to.) A foldable lens implant called an intraocular lens is then implanted through the same incision. The incision is small enough not to require suturing, although your own surgeon may sometimes elect to place a suture as a measure of extra safety. In most cases, the surgury is done under local anesthetic and the patient can enter and leave the hospital on the same day. The eye will be patched for the first 24 hours. It is expected from the patient not to do any strenuous activities, bending far forward or rubbing the eye during the first week of recovery." To the above, I would add that the surgeon referred to vacuuming up the debris after the phacoemulsification. It also seems to have vacuumed up the floaters that I had, but I expect they'll be back. I should also add that my eyes are now more sensitive to bright lights and I'm in greater danger of AMD since I have lost the UV protection afforded by the cataracts. Eleanor and I make good use of our "Solar Block" sunglasses that wrap around to avoid the sun. When our son sees us coming on a sunny day, he refers to us as "The Two Blind Mice".


WIH: 16 Aug 12

On Monday morning of this week I had surgery to remove a cataract from my right eye. (The left eye should follow in 6 to 8 weeks.) It's a bit early to draw conclusions but things seem to have gone very well. My experience is a stark contrast to Eleanor's experience of two years ago and is perhaps instructive. I came home with a shallow cup taped over the eye but it was removed the following morning by the ophthalmologist. He examined the eye and and gave it a green light. The soft plastic lens that had been inserted is prescriptive and corrects my distance vision so that I can drive without prescription glasses. The downside is that I frequently wander around without realizing that I'm not wearing my glasses and then I can't find them when I want to read. And last evening I poured our green tea and asked "What's this?" Eleanor replied "It's green tea of course". I said "but it's not the green we've been drinking." Eleanor replied "Bill, your vision has changed." Sure enough, when I closed my good eye, the green tea resumed its former taupe colour.

My operation was carried out by a local ophthalmologist at the local hospital in Comox in their dedicated Cataract Operating Room. (There are a lot of seniors in the Comox Valley.) I was stretched out on a gurney with a pillow under my knees, a warmed blanket over my aged body and a plastic sheet over my head with an oxygen supply on the inside. All costs were covered by Medicare. Eleanor's operation was carried out by a Victoria ophthalmologist in his clinic where she simply sat in a chair. We paid $1400.

According to the written information I received, my operation was carried out with the latest technique in which the old lens is shattered with ultrasound and the debris vacuumed up. Eleanor's experience was that the surgeon had difficulty in removing the cataract and "was digging around". As a result, nerves were cut that trigger the tear ducts and she ended up with a dry eye.

In both cases we had each received a thorough examination of our eyes before the operations. In my case the eyes were said to be healthy; in Eleanor's case there was dry AMD in the eye that was to be treated. Eleanor's Victoria ophthalmologist agreed with the diagnosis but said that was not a problem. He also urged her to have both eyes done but she refused. (We have since learned that no reputable ophthalmologist would make such such a recommendation.) Not long after the operation, the dry AMD progressed to wet AMD, an experience covered in another thread on this site.

I've avoided drawing conclusions here, or attempting to assign cause and effect, but I think it describes warning signs to watch for and questions that should asked.