More than 3 million cataract surgeries are being performed this year in the United States.
Today it’s my turn.
I had felt something was wrong over the past year as the vision in my right eye turned partly cloudy. But it took a recent mishap — when I broke a pair of eyeglasses — and a trip to an optometrist to find out that cataracts were the cause of my problem.
I had one cataract in each eye. The right was worse than the left.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens. The surgery basically replaces the clouded lens with an artificial one.
Surgery is not something anybody likes, but I did not want my situation to get worse. I could still see OK with glasses, but the fuzziness in my right eye felt like someone had landed a good punch there. Night driving was becoming more dicey.
I got my regular physician to recommend an ophthalmologist to do the procedure.
I was heartened upon arrival at the specialist’s office when I saw plenty of other patients in the waiting area. As a patient, you want a busy surgical practice. Doctors who perform lots of surgical procedures generally have a lower complication rate.
There were endless examinations of my eye. “Open wide!” said the technician. “Keep it open. Don’t blink.”
(Ever try not to blink? It’s like trying to hold your breath.)
On the financial side, my insurance pays for the basic procedure.
There are add-ons, however. If you want laser surgery rather than blades, it will cost more.
They call the laser surgery “blade free.’’ Blades are something I use to scrape the whiskers off my cheeks.
I opted for laser.
And I could pay more to get my vision corrected so I wouldn’t need glasses. Or I could take an intermediate fix, so I’d needed to buy lenses for just short-distance, computer work. And reading.
I chose the halfway fix.
So I’ve been going through the pre-op routine:
Eye drops four times a day. CHECK
No food or drink past midnight. (Not even black coffee!) CHECK
Wear loose-fitting clothing. CHECK
Have someone drive me to the surgery. CHECK
I’ve done enough health care stories to know that anything can happen. But friends who have gone through cataract surgery say it’s easy and will help me see better. The odds of improving my vision are more than 96 percent, I’m told.
I’m grateful that the operation I’m getting has become almost routine. People facing cancer surgery, heart surgery or other major procedures face so many more potentially life-changing outcomes.
Post-surgery note: Everything went well so far.
There’s a patch on my eye. It will come off tomorrow.
Then, two weeks from now, the left eye gets its turn in the spotlight. They don’t do both eyes at once.
Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy my first meal and a cup of coffee.