My Experience With a Combined Vitrectomy and Cataract Surgery
Cataracts are a common eye condition that comes especially with age. Modern surgical techniques can safely remove a cloudy lens and replace it with a clear one. Cataract surgery takes about half an hour and is considered safe. In my case, the surgery took a couple of hours because it was combined with a vitrectomy.
There is no medical treatment for cataracts. No eye drops, pills or dietary approaches can heal it. Without surgery, a person could become legally blind.
Legal blindness is a visual acuity of 20/200. An impeccable visual acuity is 20/20. Visual acuity is how sharp our vision is as evident by our ability to distinguish letters or numbers at a certain distance compared to a standard.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that lasts about half an hour. Patients spend a total of two to three hours at the location where the surgery will happen. They receive instructions on how to care for the operated eye, and someone will drive them home. They can watch television and read that same night.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Vitrectomy
Reading, watching television, driving, or recognizing faces becomes difficult with AMD.
- A blurred or distorted area in your vision.
- Seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked.
- Objects looking smaller than normal.
- Colors seeming less bright than usual.
A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure done by a specialist who removes the vitreous humor gel that fills the eye cavity This gives better access to the retina and allows for various repairs such as removing scar tissue, repairing retinal detachments, and treating macular holes. In my case, it was a macular hole in the left eye.
A macular hole is a small gap at the centre of the retina, in an area called the macula. The retina is the light-sensitive film at the back of the eye. In the centre is the macula, the part in charge of central and small-detail vision necessary for tasks such as reading.
Cataracts Risk Factors
Age is the main factor that accelerates the risk of developing cataracts. It starts at the age of 40.
Other risk factors are:
- Long-time exposure to too much UV radiation from sunshine
- Drinking alcohol in large amounts
- High blood pressure
- Using corticosteroid medicine for long periods of time
- Having a previous eye injury, inflammation or surgery.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Bit by bit, you might notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Difficulty reading signs especially when you drive at night
- Difficulty reading small print
- Cloudy or blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to glare from lights: Before the surgery, I used to scream from pain if the sun slight hit my eyes directly. Now, I never go out without wearing sunglasses.
- Seeing halos around lights
- Dull colors
- Double vision in one eye
Those who feel pain with the vision loss could have another eye problem such as an infection, inflammation, injury, or glaucoma. This is the time to get an appointment with an eye doctor.
My first appointment with an eye surgeon was in August of 2017. My eye doctor referred me to an eye specialist, who in turn referred me to an eye surgeon.
A black patch had covered the central vision of my left eye that made it impossible for me to see straight ahead. An alarm rang in my head the day I drove home from the train station and barely saw a car coming my way. The view in my right eye was blocked by the car in front of me, and I did not see an oncoming car with my left eye. Thankfully, I spun my car at the last moment and avoided a collision.
My surgery took place on September 25th at St. Michael’s Hospital, a teaching hospital and medical centre in Toronto, Ontario. There was an extended heat warning for Toronto that day. The humidex made the heat feel like 40 degrees Celsius.
Due to heavy traffic and the nonchalant attitude of the woman who was paid to drive me to the hospital, I arrived 15 minutes late. At 9:45 a.m., I entered the hospital building and walked to the designated area.
The time of my surgery was set at 11:30 a.m. but I was kept in a waiting room for an extra hour. That probably was due to an emergency. I did not enquire.
I felt exhausted going into the surgery and afterward.
The same woman who drove me to the hospital picked me up that day at 2:30 p.m. I paid a personal support worker to stay with me that first night, and to come to my place the next three days for three hours each day. I was obligated by the hospital rules to have someone with me during those hours. I would have preferred to be alone.
My first post-operative appointment was the next day with a female assistant to the surgeon. Another post-operative appointment was three days later with the surgeon. Both assured me that I was well on my way to healing. I had my last post-operative appointment with the surgeon in February of 2018.
For a few weeks after the surgery, I took an antibiotic, and applied medical eye drops several times a day to prevent infection.
The eye surgeon recommended four weeks off work after the surgery. I was back in the office after two weeks for a personal reason.
Face-Down Positioning After the Retinal Surgery
The toughest part of the vitrectomy surgery was having to stay in a face-down position after the surgery for 24 hours a day, seven days and nights. That was necessary to help seal the macular hole. I also had to cover my operated eye with an eye patch while I slept at night for an extra week.
The instructions for the face-down positioning allowed me to sit up with my neck bent and face down, but doing that would have been too hard on my neck muscles. I could also get up and walk, but looking down with my face parallel to the floor.
I Rented a Care Chair
I did not want to lie on my belly for seven days and nights without support. So, I went to the Know Your body Best store in Toronto and rented a face-down positioning mat and a Care Chair. I received delivery of these two items two days before the surgery and returned them a week after.
I used the face-down positioning mat to lie on my abdomen day and night facing downward. It is designed to help reduce lower back discomfort while giving me enough space for a comfortable sleep.
I used the Care Chair to sit with my face parallel to the floor. It had a hygienic face cover and a face-down mirror. The mirror helped me see forward while keeping my face down, and was useful to watch television and to eat my meals while sitting in the chair.
The 8th day after the surgery when I could look straight ahead was a great day for me. I felt like walking on air. I had no responsibilities, no worry, and no pain. It was a wonderful feeling.
I did not have any side-effects from the combined surgery. The vision in my left eye was restored. I was able to read clearly with my left eye and to distinguish colors.
I now wear my sunglasses outside and avoid any risk factor that could damage my eyesight. I take a daily dietary supplement to help improve macular pigment density. It reduces the risk and improves eyesight in conditions such as AMD.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.