Cataract surgery

4 07 2020

The time had come… Back in February, I went in to the optician to get new glasses as mine had a scratch on the lens. He did an eye exam and advised me NOT to get a new script until I’d seen my ophthalmologist about my cataracts. Cataracts? What cataracts??? He said I’d had them for a couple of years now, but he only mentioned them now because I was only now mentioning that my vision was getting worse—didn’t want to scare me, or something like that. So off to my lovely ophthalmologist, Russell.

Russell confirmed the cataracts and said that they typically didn’t tell people they had them until the patient started to complain about vision loss. That’s to stop patients worrying unnecessarily about something that could take several years to manifest as an issue. I could see the logic in that, but still, I think I would’ve liked to have known earlier.

Anyhow, we booked my surgery for 2 July; it was originally going to be March before my planned trip to the US and Morocco in April and May, but as the recovery time before you can get new glasses would be about 6 weeks, I pushed the surgery back until after I was due back from my trip—I certainly didn’t want to be away and travelling and not being able to see properly! Of course, between February and March 2020 the world changed with COVID-19, and with it a whole lot of things that we could and couldn’t do. My trip was off, for starters. And in Western Australia, all non-urgent elective surgery was cancelled to free up medical staff, PPE, and hospital beds for the expected influx of COVID-19 patients. That didn’t happen in our state, so by May 2020 restrictions on elective surgery were lifted. I fully expected my cataract surgery to be pushed back to October or later, but the 2 July date was still OK.

I was scheduled to have both eyes done at once, under general anaesthetic. This is NOT the norm—typically, you get one eye done under light sedation, then the other eye gets done some two weeks later. But I freak out if any instrument comes near my eyes (long-lasting trauma from major eye surgery when I was 12), so Russell, who knew about this phobia of mine, suggested he do both eyes under general. He said it’s not the norm, but he was fine with doing that, and besides, he didn’t want me to have two lots of general anaesthetic a short time apart.

My surgery was to correct my medium- to long-distance vision and Russell said that I’d need about 1.5 magnification glasses afterwards for close work. I had originally opted for good short vision as I do a lot of computer work, sewing, reading etc., but then I thought about the long-term situation with glasses and realised that if I went for good short vision, then I’d forever be getting prescription glasses and sunglasses (at $400 a time) for driving, watching TV etc. However, if I went for good medium to long vision, I would only need to buy el cheapo magnifying glasses for close work from any pharmacy or other places that sell them (and there are a LOT of places that do); same for sunglasses. And I wouldn’t be restricted to special frames or styles as I was for my prism prescription lenses. So within days of my appointment with Russell in February, I called to change the request to be for good long-distance vision.

2 July 2020

Off to the hospital for day surgery… The first stage of prep was getting several courses of drops put into my eyes over about an hour; this was to dilate the pupils. One of them really stung, but the other was fine. Then into the very stylish (not!) gown for the operating theatre and into bed under the snuggly heated blankets. Next came the anaesthetist who had trouble finding a vein (I did warn him) and so he waited until I was in the very bright light of the anteroom outside the OR, and even then he had to try several places to get a cannula in. Then he left me in the very bright light (dilated pupils and bright lights really don’t do well together) while he went into the OR to discuss things with Russell.

He came back in to tell me he had to mark my eyeballs with some sort of marker while I was sitting up but that he’d give me a local anaesthetic first. It would’ve saved me a LOT of angst had he told me HOW he was going to administer this local anesthetic. Instead, he left me alone with that information for about another 10 mins, but which felt like a lifetime. I was already stressed to the max about this operation, so hearing about a local just added to that. I seriously considered getting up and doing a runner because the idea of a needle near my eyes was too much to bear! When he came back, I asked how he was going to do the local and he said via drops! He could have told me that right from the get go!!! The most difficult thing was trying to tame my brain from the terror and worry that if anything went wrong…. And my body was as tense as a board because I was so mentally stressed.

Once he administered the local anaesthetic drops and did the marking (no pain, though it was a bit perturbing having the marker coming at my eyes), I was wheeled into the OR and put under. Russell said he’d be putting in a Toric lens, which is hoped to reduce/eliminate my strabismus, and that’s why the marker.

Next thing I’m waking up in the recovery area. The lights were very bright but I was able to see out of both eyes so that was a massive relief. The plastic shields over my eyes were removed after about an hour and were no longer required. After some food and drink, my DH came to pick me up and we headed home. We watched TV that night and I could see everything clearly with NO GLASSES! First time ever, I think. But boy, every light in the house was certainly bright and all the LED lights had BIG halos around them. That night I slept semi-upright in the recliner as I didn’t want to sleep on my side in the bed in case that was an issue for my eyes.

3 July 2020

Day 1 with my new eyes: Everything is so white and bright! I was able to watch TV last night without glasses for the first time in probably forever. But now I have to wear glasses for computer work, reading, sewing, and quilting. I’d been using magnifiers for some reading for a while (e.g. newspapers, but not ebooks ‘cos you can increase the font size for that), so that’s no different, but wearing them for computer work is. Fortunately, I have a few magnifiers, so I just leave one pair near the computer. Today was a normal day other than getting used to the brightness outside the office window, and getting used to putting on my glasses for the computer or anything I have to read, like the fine print on the eye drop bottles.

My eyes seem fine, though they’re a bit weepy and feel like they are just brimming with tears for much of the time. I slept in the bed tonight, with no problems at all.

Some of the precautions I have to take:

  • two different types of eye drops 4 times a day for two weeks
  • NO water in my eyes from showering etc. for at least two weeks—I borrowed a friend’s diving mask to wear in the shower so I can wash my hair and it works a treat!
  • no bending over, unless you keep you head on a fairly even horizontal plane—I have a grabber tool I can use to pick things up off the floor if my DH isn’t close by, or for getting the newspaper from the driveway in the morning
  • no strenuous activity (that one’s not hard for me!!!)

4 July 2020

Day 2 with my new eyes: Everything is still very bright (I’m glad it’s the middle of winter here—it would be much worse in summer when the Australian summer light is so harsh), but I seem to have lost the big halos around the LED lights, which is good. We went for a 160 km drive today, but first I had to get some new sunnies from the pharmacy (and another pair of 1.5 magnifiers so that I’ve got enough to leave in all the places I need them). I had to wear the sunnies at lunch as the light coming from the bright sky and from the water outside the restaurant were too much to bear. I noticed that by mid-afternoon on the drive home the vision in my right eye was a bit blurry. I believe this is normal. In general, my left eye seems to have more clarity than the right eye (which was the case before the surgery too).

I also noticed when I was reading the paper this morning (head tilted down to the table, which probably wasn’t a good idea) that I was getting little flashes of light at the far corners of my eyes. I’ll have to hunt out an angled drawing board I have for reading the paper and doing the crosswords to see if that helps get rid of the flashes. Again, these are likely normal for the first few days/weeks.

One other thing I noticed is that because I can’t wash and splash my face in the shower, my eyelashes have got a bit matted from the ‘sleep’ and the drops. When I was at the pharmacy getting my new sunnies and magnifiers, I asked about something to gently clean my eye area, and they suggested eye wipes (a Murine product). They helped a lot in getting rid of the accumulating gunk!

The watery eye feeling seems to have gone, except after putting in the drops, of course.

My follow-up appointment with Russell isn’t for another few weeks yet, so I’m using this blog post to note down all the changes, differences, and variations of vision that I experience.

From here on, I’ll only update this post if I notice changes.

Bottom line: Am I glad I had the surgery? So far, after two days, a resounding YES. There has been no pain and no issues other than sensitivity to light as my new eyes adjust to their ‘new normal’.

Update 9 July 2020, one week after the surgery: I’m getting used to the brightness of everything, and it’s becoming my ‘new normal’. I still get the occasional white flashes on the outer corners of my eyes, but these are very intermittent and very seldom. I’ve had some ‘floaters’, again very seldom and very intermittent, and much smaller than the floaters that I had occasionally before the surgery. The wateriness has well and truly gone, and I’m getting used to wearing glasses for reading instead of distance.

Update 16 July 2020, two weeks after the surgery: As for 9th July. One eye has a bit more clarity/sharpness of vision than the other, but I’ll talk to the ophthalmologist about that when I see him for my post-op follow-up next Tuesday. It’s likely related to the type of lens used to correct the astigmatism (strabismus), and the slight blurriness is nowhere near as bad as the double vision I had before. I can stop the eye drops at the end of today too, and shower without eye protection!


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2 responses

5 07 2020
weddingdressblue

Congratulations! Seems like a good long-term-quality-of-life investment.

6 07 2020
Carolyn Sullivan

great! can’t wait to see how you like it in 6 weeks. I too have some cataracts ‘starting’… need to see an Opto guy too, bc mine retired!!!!

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