I've had surgery for my left eye and will have the other eye done soon. I'm quickly learning what's critical for successful treatment.
Why You Should Read This Article
No one wants to lose his or her sight. It's way too important to your quality of life. When you face surgery for cataracts, your main goal is to preserve your vision. The considerations presented in this article will help you achieve that goal. Obviously, there is no guarantee, but the statistics are definitely in your favor.
How Do I Know What Factors to Consider?
I've had surgery for my left eye and will have right eye surgery within the next week. I'm quickly learning what's critical for a successful surgery. I'm sure you'll agree once you've read the article.
My goal is to help you preserve your vision by providing you with information I consider important for successful cataract surgery. I understand that every person's experience is unique, and you may not have the same experience as I did. I also know that you may incur unnecessary risk if you do not at least consider the items I mention here.
Summary of Considerations
These are topics for your consideration:
- Choosing a surgeon
- Deciding on an intraocular lens (IOL).
- Following pre-surgical instructions
- Following post-surgical instructions
- Deciding how to see well between surgeries
1. Choosing a Surgeon
Choosing a surgeon is definitely your most important consideration. After all, this person literally has your sight in his hands.
Make sure to pick a surgeon based on reputation, years of experience, referrals from reliable sources, and compatibility.
As an example, my surgeon belongs to a reputable eye care group, has done thousands of cataract surgeries, and was referred to me by an optometrist I have used for more than 25 years. When I met him, I connected with him instantly. Although he is businesslike, he clearly has the patient's well-being in mind. He called me the day before surgery to check my stress level, what meds I needed to take, and to make sure I understood the fasting protocol.
2. Deciding on an Intraocular Lens (IOL)
The bottom line is that once your surgeon has taken eye measurements, he should guide you to an IOL selection. You should have input into this decision based on your specific situation.
The ability to pay for certain lenses is a definite factor. For example, Medicare will pay for the surgery and a conventional IOL. Typically, a conventional IOL will correct far vision but not near vision. That means you will need reading glasses post-surgery.
Special lenses such as multifocal (corrects near and far vision) and toric (corrects astigmatism) cost more for both surgery and the lens itself. In case you don't know, astigmatism is an irregularly shaped eye lens or cornea.
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In my situation, a toric lens for both eyes was the best choice because of astigmatism in both eyes. As a matter of fact, the surgeon indicated that I was not a candidate for multifocal lenses because of the amount of astigmatism. My distance vision is corrected but not my near vision.
3. Following Pre-Surgical Instructions
Why make the distinction between pre- and post-surgical instructions? Well, each has its own purpose. Pre-surgical instructions contribute toward a successful surgery. Post-surgical instructions contribute toward a successful recovery.
The first set of instructions centers around preparing for surgery. You'll get measured for the right lens, take eye drops several days before surgery, fast the day before surgery, and fill out endless forms to make sure there are no barriers to surgery (other medical conditions, allergies, etc.).
All of these activities are important. The one that gave me the most amount of trouble was taking the eye drops for the antibiotic required for surgery. I kept missing my eye. In time I got the hang of it. It makes sense to ask a tech assistant in the surgeon's office to show you the best way to administer drops. The assistant did not show me; she merely read a set of instructions.
Notes to Remember on Surgery Day
Remember these are my experiences. You may have different ones.
- The nurse in the surgery center gave me instructions regarding lifting items, what drops to administer, scratchiness in the eye, wearing the eye patch at night, and how many days I should wait to do things like drive, or drink alcohol. I remembered none of these instructions afterward. Fortunately, my spouse was in the recovery room with me. Some instructions were included in the discharge papers.
- The eye scratchiness mentioned by the nurse was not scratchiness for me; instead, it felt more like a pain in my eye. My pain was from the surgical incision and lessened on the second day. You can take an over-the-counter pain killer but I chose not to.
- I could see perfectly out of the surgically repaired eye.
- The surgically repaired eye was dilated for at least 24 hours. That made it light-sensitive. I wore sunglasses all day.
- I experienced light flickering when I looked to the left. The next day the doctor said this would lessen over time. Tomorrow is a week post-surgery. The flickering has lessened considerably.
4. Following Post-Surgical Instructions
You do want to recover quickly, don't you? It takes your eye about a month to fully recover. Amazing, especially when you consider there's a foreign body in your eye!
Remember to do the following (and anything else the surgeon recommends):
- Administer the eye drops at the frequency and according to the schedule the doctor recommends. My doc gave me a post-surgical schedule for antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops.
- Make sure the drops are available from your pharmacy when they are needed. This gets a little more complex as you head toward the second surgery. Then there is a schedule for each eye.
- Bend over as little as possible the first few days. Lifting items more than 10 pounds is not usually recommended.
- Wear your eye patch as recommended by the surgeon. I wore mine at night for 3-4 days. You have to tape it on.
- Wear sunglasses if your eye(s) are sensitive to light.
Sunglasses with side shields
A Note About the Book Shown Above
The author mentions disorientation as a possible side effect of cataract surgery. And I am occasionally misjudging distance. The result is frustrating because in the past two days I have spilled a cup of coffee and a glass of iced tea because I knocked them over while trying to pick them up.
Also, I mentioned the driving issue with depth perception. Some people can drive right away. Some people can't.
I can attribute some of these disorientation problems to being between surgeries. See the next section below.
5. Deciding How to See Well Between Surgeries
If you are near-sighted and one eye has been implanted with a distance IOL while the other still has a cataract, you might be stuck with an interesting visual pattern. Without glasses and with one eye surgically repaired, I can see okay with both eyes but not well enough to drive on a long trip. Unfortunately, I can't read anything.
The surgeon's solution was that I would function happily during the two-week period between surgeries. I wanted to remove the left lens from my glasses. He said that was not necessary. And at this point, I'm not sure it would have helped.
The way I am functioning for distance is to not wear glasses at all except when I go outdoors. Then I have to wear sunglasses. It's a little irritating with one good eye and one cloudy, blurry eye but I'm getting by.
The way I read is to wear cheater reading glasses at 2.0 with my right eye blocked by a piece of paper. It works okay for now.
If you are faced with the same situation and can come up with a good solution, please share with my readers in the comment section.
After the Second Surgery
Today was my right eye surgery. This seemed a little more painful than the first eye, but right now I am using reading glasses to write this module. This time I took acetaminophen so that the eye doesn't hurt as much as the first surgery. It is dilated so the room is dark.
The left eye vision is 20/15. I'll know tomorrow at the post-surgery appointment how well I can see out of the right eye.
Right eye was also 20/20 but cloudy. The surgeon said it was caused by swelling and would clear up. Here's something to remember when the second eye is operated on—it may have a different reaction to cataract surgery than the first eye.
At this point, you should understand the importance of the first 4 topics discussed above. They are as follows:
- Choosing a surgeon
- Deciding on a intraocular lens (IOL).
- Following pre-surgical instructions
- Following post-surgical instructions.
To me, the surgeon (and his staff) are the most important consideration. He will guide you to the best intraocular lens for you. If you need and can afford a special lens, go for it.
If you have done any prior research on cataract surgery, you may have noticed that I have omitted an IOL option called monovision—implanting a long-distance IOL in one eye and a near-vision IOL in the other. My optometrist has many patients in the 65+ age category who have had cataract surgery; he recommended that I not consider the monovision option.
Following pre- and post-surgical instructions sounds like a no-brainer, yet people don't always pay attention. So listen up—follow through because that will help ensure an uneventful surgery and a quick recovery.
The Last Key Consideration
In this article, I also talked about the between surgeries issue. For me, this was a big problem. Hopefully, you'll be able to see okay with one surgically repaired eye.
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.