So You’ve Been Told You Have Cataracts

older man looking at camera

Don’t freak out!  This is actually good news.  When I was first told about my cataracts, I was unaware of what it truly meant.  

I grew up when having cataracts meant the removal of your lenses and then you had to wear thick glasses that magnify the appearance of your eyeballs.  Turns out, they actually replace your lenses and correct your vision, usually to 20/20, without the need for glasses ever again.

They will give you a bunch of documentation about what the procedure is all about, but I found that documentation severely lacking on one point: the patient’s perspective on what actually happens.  

Yes, they cut a slit in your cornea, and yes you are very much aware of what is happening but don’t freak out.  It isn’t that bad. In fact, it isn’t even bad at all.

They can’t “knock you out”.  Total anesthesia is not an option for various reasons.  

They will tell you that you will be fully aware of your surroundings, and what they are doing, but “you won’t care”.  I kept thinking “Sorry, but I WILL care. These are the eyeballs that I use for seeing that you are messing with”.

I’ve been myopic since I was an adolescent.  My near-sightedness was worse throughout the years until about five years prior to my surgery.  Suddenly, my right eye got very very bad very quickly.

A year or so later, they told me that they could no longer correct my vision with lenses — I had “baby” cataracts.

I went through the five stages of grief, which starts with denial (and ends with acceptance).  Look it up. At the time, I still thought they would remove my lenses and I’d have to wear those eyeball-magnifying glasses.  

I decided to kick the can down the road a year at a time — as most people do until eventually, my right eye was so foggy and blurry, I was starting to wonder if I should be driving.  

By then, my left eye was starting to go foggy as well.  It was time.

The Surgery Itself

Don’t freak out!  The surgery is a piece of cake.  With icing. I asked my eye doctor exactly how he makes the incision.  

The answer was “with a knife” (my word, not his).  So much for my hope, it was a laser beam. I had visions (no pun intended) of laying there in the Operating Room, fully aware of them slitting my eyeball and replacing the lens, all the while “watching” it from within.

Wrong.

First off, they numb your eye so you don’t feel it, and secondly, they don’t come at you with a knife.  They lower a device over your face and tell you to keep looking at the light.

All you see is darkness and the light to stare at.  In a few minutes — literally less than five, the surgeon says “Ok.  Done!”.

I was totally unaware that anything happened, let alone a lens removal and replacement.  Ten or fifteen minutes later, they send you on your way!

The Aftermath

They don’t do both eyes on the same day.  I thought it would be back-to-back days, but they don’t do that either.  In my case, since I was extremely near-sighted, they did my eyes six days apart.  

Usually, it is longer.  That was the weirdest week I’ve ever experienced.  One eye with corrected vision, and one eye, well, not.  

The remaining portion of the surgery day, you’ll be wearing a see-through shield, but it isn’t totally see-through, and you’ll also be taped up.  You wear the shield at night for sleep, but during the day, you don’t have to.

In many cases, they correct your vision to 20/20, and you never wear glasses ever again.  In my case, since I was extremely near-sighted, I had to choose.

Did I want to spend the rest of my life slightly near-sighted or slightly far-sighted?  I chose slightly near-sighted so I could read and look at computer screens with no glasses, and wear glasses to watch TV and drive.  And that is exactly what I do.

One of the after-effects of this surgery is a possible feeling of scratchiness for a few days.  Interestingly, I felt that with the first surgery, but not the second one.

Apparently, they sometimes scratch the cornea during surgery.  This is normal and goes away in a few days. It’s really annoying, but Tylenol or Ibuprofen make it go away quite nicely.

So that’s it.  Everyone will tell you that it’s going to be awesome, and they aren’t kidding.  You not only have corrected vision, but the colors you see are much brighter.

Do not fear this surgery.  It’s the best thing to have happened to me in a long time.  You’ll kick yourself for not doing it sooner. Contact Vermont Eye Laser in South Burlington, VT to schedule a cataract screening today!