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My Cataract Surgery and Recovery Experience

Updated on March 15, 2018

Cataract Surgery Is Not Your Mother's Surgery

Cataract surgery once considered a major operation. Years ago, a large incision with a knife would be made on the eye to take out the cataract lens. This calls for a higher chance of infection. A patient would stay in the hospital at least a week. Recovery rate could take up to six months.

Today an intraocular lens (IOL) is implanted following a small incision. Replacing the existing crystalline lens clouded over by a cataract. A very simple procedure taking around fifteen minutes to perform and the patient leaves the same day.

With all surgery, there is risk. Inform yourself thoroughly about the benefits and possible risk, what all is involved and the different type of lens implants. Remember that not everyone will heal the same. Personally, I know people who have had cataract surgery with no complications.

This is my story.

Cataracts Can Happen at Any Age

My Case Is Not Typical

Majority of patients recover well. With the fast growing cataracts that I had, I would eventually be blind if it were not for the surgery.

Shining Stars in the Sky - One of Several Types of Cataracts

Star Sky Graphic Night on Pixabay
Star Sky Graphic Night on Pixabay

"Your eyes are like stars in the sky." Dr. J said to me after examining my eyes. I had several small specks scattered on the lens of both eyes. It did not interfere with my vision. Except for night driving which was unpreventable during the cold months of leaving the office at night. Streetlights, lighted signs, all seemed bright and glaring.

What could have caused this?

I was only in my twenties. At that time, there were reports of electromagnetic radiation emitting from computers that could cause anything from cancer, cataracts, carpal tunnel and miscarriages. I was certain that it was due to excess computer use at work. Nevertheless, as quickly as this news appeared it suddenly disappeared as if it never existed.

Dr. J said that the cause of my cataracts was unclear. It could have been something I have had since birth and too small to be noticeable before, called congenital cataracts. Generally, it does run in the family. My maternal grandmother had cataracts. My mother had cataracts. She developed hers years later in a senior citizen.

A few years later, after going to my ophthalmologist, there was no progression with my eyes. My cataracts may never change or decades later grow to the point of surgery. This was reassuring since my insurance no longer covered routine examines by an ophthalmologist.

Torn Cornea Brought Me Back to Doctor J - Years Later

Lighting over a torn cornea
Lighting over a torn cornea

Lighting Over a Torn Cornea Poster by Sandyspider on Zazzle.

By time summer of 2011 came around, driving at night was more difficult. Besides the glare, brightness and halo effect associated with cataracts, dimly lit roads made me feel edgy. Driveways to stores and to my own home were hard to see until I was right there. The fluorescent lighting in buildings hurt my eyes. Faces became harder to recognize from a distance. For reading, the computer and other close work, this was not a problem.

"Fast growing cataracts" were the words I heard from my optometrist, in December 2010. I noticed a difference with my left eye, but it was both eyes with a new type of cataract forming over my non-changeable stars in the sky. She said that before the end of the following year, I would be getting surgery... Oh, how I wanted to prove her wrong.

Then in July 2011, my husband accidentally poked me hard in my right eye. His thumbnail torn the cornea, sending me to see Dr. J, many years later from the first time I had seen him. His dark hair was now white and balding. He did not remember me. As he put it, he has had thousands of patients since then. (Read about my experience, titled Poke in the Dark)

He said that we needed to schedule cataract removal as soon as my eye healed. I watched a short video about implant replacement. It started out that this is primary an old age problem of people in their 70's. Much of the video was pleasant enough until the end with the explanation of possible side effects of surgery. Symptoms included eye swelling, blurriness, infection and the last one blindness. Then the screen went blank.

So You've Got A Cataract?: - What You Need to Know About Cataract Surgery:

So You've Got A Cataract?: What You Need to Know About Cataract Surgery: A Patient's Guide to Modern Eye Surgery, Advanced Intraocular Lenses & Choosing Your Surgeon
So You've Got A Cataract?: What You Need to Know About Cataract Surgery: A Patient's Guide to Modern Eye Surgery, Advanced Intraocular Lenses & Choosing Your Surgeon
Understanding cataract surgery before you go through it is important. This book helps gives the advise you need to make that decision.

Understand What to Expect

Day of the First Surgery - September 6, 2011

Medicine Medical Surgery Nurse Doctor Physician
Medicine Medical Surgery Nurse Doctor Physician

After two days of post eye drop placement and making sure not to eat or drink anything at least twelve hours prior to surgery, today was finally the day. Schedule at 9 a.m., arriving at 7 a.m., the nurse came in every few minutes to add dilating drops in my left eye. At 8.a.m., she wheeled me into the surgery prep room. This room holds four patients at a time and Dr. J's assembly line. For another hour, I waited there and ever so often, the staff would come around asking everyone their name, age and birth date. Mine stayed the same! As the youngest, I listened to the ages of the other patients. Two were in their 80's and one was 63.

At 9.a.m., it was my turn. I went with the general. Shortly after entering the operating room, it was lights out. Normally a local anesthesia is given for this type of surgery. However, I made it clear that I did not want to see instruments coming at me. The surgery takes 15 minutes, and then the patient is brought back to their room. The patient who undergoes a local anesthesia will get a snack and something to drink and then discharged shortly after. With the general anesthesia, the patient has to stay in a recovery room for at least 30 minutes, then to their room where they have to wait a little longer. Food is not an option due to possible stomach upset. My nurse said as if taunting me, "Your roommate will get a snack and you won't."

Photo credit: Pixabay

Cataract Treatment without Surgery (shown on eBay)

Are you not ready for cataract surgery? Try the natural way with homeopathic treatment. Homeopathic medicine can help in some people. It is alternative medicine without the side effects associated with medicine. Though inconclusive on the effects of this treatment, homeopathic alternatives have been around for years. Many people swear by it.

Learn About Cataracts and Treatment - Books | Kindle | DVD

Know Your Options

Post Surgery Follow Up - Left Eye

Optometrist Doctor Patient Eye Exam Examination
Optometrist Doctor Patient Eye Exam Examination

When I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee in my 20s, my orthopedic surgeon said to me, "You heal like a 70 year old." That right there should have been an indication of how well I would heal. Seeing Dr. J the following day of surgery, he said that people heal at different rates. The swelling in my left eye was causing everything to look cloudy.

One week later, I was seeing clearly except for cloudiness around the outside edge of my eye with a shadow of a half moon. This shadow is the edge of the lens. It is common to see it when there is excess swelling of the cornea. At this point, I was upset with my ophthalmologist. I could see distance but could not read the newspaper. He did not explain to me that there were different type of lens implants. He did not give me the option to decide which way I wanted to go. My insurance does not cover, presbyopia-correcting IOLs (intraocular lenses) that will correct both near and far vision, Dr. J. implanted the monofocal lens, which comes in two types. One for distance and one for close up. Some people opt for one of each type of the monofocal lenses. But not everyone can coordinate their eyes nor get use to it.

Communicating the differences prior to surgery and then allowing me to decide if I was willing to pay for the upgrade would have been the proper thing to do. Since surgery was over with the left eye, I did not want to add extra stress with favoring one eye over the other. I decided to go with the distance lenses for the other eye too. Both eyes will require reading glasses.

Insurance Companies and Cataract Surgery

Going Halfway

Getting Lasik surgery to rid yourself of glasses on otherwise healthy eyes is one thing and should not be compared to wanting perfect vision after cataract surgery. In my opinion lens implants should only be presbyopia-correcting IOLs (corrective vision for far and near) called multifocal lenses after cataract surgery.

Insurance companies should cover this. It is not vanity. You are having a defective lens replaced with a halfway finished lens. It is my opinion that monofocal lenses should not even exist.

Perfect Eyesight or Half Done - Only Half Finished

Should All Insurance Companies Cover Presbyopia-Correcting IOLs?

See results

Right Eye Cataract Surgery - September 20, 2011

Cataract surgery recently performed
Cataract surgery recently performed

Considering myself a strong person with a high tolerance of pain, I may be one of the few women in this country who have not gone for the epidural during natural childbirth. This time, I could handle the local anesthesia. Repeating the same preparations as before and seeing some familiar faces. The same assembly room, four beds and anesthesiologist, who did not remember me from the last visit. But in that period of time, Dr J. could have had 1,000 patients pass through. The anesthesiologist looked at the chart and said, "You are way too young for this."

At 9 a.m., my nurse wheeled me to the operating room. There in the cold room, a cloth placed over my face, and then one of the surgeons cut a hole in the cloth for my right eye. I felt the pressure of the wire speculum to keep my eye open. One Surgeon said he would irrigate my eye throughout the procedure. At first, I had seen the water flushing over me. Movements of quick bright red geometric shapes appeared, moving in closer to my eye. Which may be from blood vessels or one of the instruments used during surgery.

Fifteen minutes later, it was over. Brought back to my room, had my apple muffin and cranberry juice. Then discharged from the hospital.

(Photo is found on Wikipedia.)

Following Cataract Surgery on Both Eyes - Time Will Heal

Optometrist Doctor Patient Eye Exam Examination
Optometrist Doctor Patient Eye Exam Examination

Seeing Dr. J a day after my second surgery, my right eye was as cloudy as the left one was after surgery. Both eyes still had considerable swelling to the cornea. Assured that after it all goes down, my vision will continue to improve. Course I am an impatient person. A trait of a Capricorn.

The second day after surgery on my right, the cloudiness was gone, except for the corner and the half moon image of the lens.

My vision continued to get better in both eyes, though there was still is a bit of cloudiness around the edges, nothing that would change. Patience is what I needed to allow time for it all to be where it should be. It could take weeks or months.

First Week after Cataract Surgery - Things to Avoid for One Week

The follow up after surgery, I was given a list of things to avoid the first week. Told that I could do almost everything, including working on the computer, although know my limits to avoid eye stress and strain.

During the first week, my husband suggested that we do some aerobics. Due to his disappointment, I pointed to restriction number 2.

  1. Do not rub or bump the eye or apply pressure to the eyelids.
  2. Avoid jarring, falling bumps and activities such as tennis, racquetball, aerobics, swimming or jogging.
  3. Do not lift greater than 30 pounds.
  4. No pools, hot tubs or natural bodies of water.

Cataract Surgery - Warning: Not for Weak Stomachs

Healthy Eyes with Preventative Treatment - Avoid Cataracts Before They Happen

Can you prevent cataracts? The answer to that is yes and no.

Diabetes can cause cataracts. A diabetic friend developed cataracts. He began to eat healthy and exercise. The cataracts went away.

Another cause is radiation exposure from the sun, medical treatment and other exposures. Hereditary, handed down from parent to child. In other cases, the formation of cataracts may be unknown.

Certain vitamins and minerals can help in preventing cataracts and keeping healthy eyes, such as vitamins A, C and E. Many supplements for eyes have a combination of these vitamins and minerals.

Blue Tinting After Surgery - I See Blue People

It is normal to see a blue tint after surgery. It is just your eye or eyes adjusting to true colors.

I have always wanted to see what the Blue Man Group are like. They have received great reviews. Blue Man Group's How to Be a Megastar Tour hits the road again in 2008. The live rock show takes the audience through a satirical workshop on how to create the perfect rock concert experience. In the process, they celebrate, skewer and otherwise deconstruct rock stardom in all of its narcissistic glory.

One to Three Month Update

The Follow Ups

My first month appointment after surgery, I was told my eyes were healing well. However, because of my age, young people tend to heal slower than the elderly would heal. Funny, you would think it would be the other way. In a strange way was flattening, for Dr. J to call me YOUNG.

There was still some inflammation, the swelling was down and Dr. J told me to continue with the drops for the next couple of weeks with the eye drops. I did complain to him that it looked like I was seeing everything through goggles. Meaning my side vision did not seem right. He assured me that this too would get better.

My eyesight was clear and I no longer noticed the world in shades of blue. Dr. J said that he would see me in about eleven months.

Second Month:

Two weeks had passed since using the eye drops. Still had the goggle vision and my eyes did not feel right. A new symptom began to appear. Moving lights on the outer edges of the lens of both eyes and this was happening several times during the day and night.

Wondering if this could be a detached retina in both eyes. After reading online, that one of the signs is a bright moving light seen on the outer edge of the lens.

In Dr. J's office, I relayed what was going on. Relieved that there were no problems with the retinas, what I had was overly active dancing gel (as he called it) in the back of the corneas. This was causing the light movement affect. He assured that this would calm itself down in time.

Inflammation was still apparent in both eyes. Dr. J, told me to start up with the drops again and to see him in 3 to 4 weeks.

Before I left, he wanted to make sure I knew where my eyes were located and demonstrated for me how to put eye drops in.

Third Month Plus:

My appointment was on Dec. 28, 2011.

That dancing gel has been having one heck of a party and still dancing the night away!

Dr. J said that in some cases, this could lead to a detached retina. But, assured me that everything is fine there. The flashing light images that I have are quite common in the elderly.

Inflammation is still in both eyes. I am to continue another three weeks with the drops. In addition, for five days, I have to take oral Prednisone.

I asked him what is the next move if it still does not clear up and he told me that I will have to get shots underneath my eyes. I failed to ask what would be the next move after that.

Sad Face Coaster - Funnyjokes Gifts Zazzle
Sad Face Coaster - Funnyjokes Gifts Zazzle

Fourth Month Update

This Won't Hurt a Bit

Jan. 18, 2012, steroid shots were places through the lower eyelids. Assured that it wouldn't be painful...the right eyelid was the worst, for Dr. J hit the bone.

Even after applying pressure on my eyes, the lids immediately swelled up. I looked like I had been in a fight. Dr. J said that he would see me in four weeks.

"What is the next step when this doesn't work?"

Dr. J responded that he would send me to a specialist. He believes that I have some type of immune deficiency. Nothing wrong with the surgery...everything is good on that end!!!

The following day, not only were my eyelids swollen, I now had a bruise under my right eye. My entire face was swollen, bright red and hot to the touch. My family wanted to take me to the hospital. Obviously, I had a reaction to the shots.

I didn't go to the hospital, the next day after that my face (except for the eyelids) were back to normal.

Jan. 29, 2012...there is NO CHANGE!

Photo is the Sad Face Coaster by Funnyjokes Gifts on Zazzle.

The coaster and funny shirts are featured on Things to Ponder Funny Shirts

Fifth Month of Healing - As Is

Things To Ponder Clothing
Things To Ponder Clothing

Feb. 15, 2012, my next appointment with Dr. J. Nearly a month has past. I could tell that my eyes are better, but not 100%. Dr. J confirmed that. Some inflammation still exist. Yet he was convinced that it will only get better. There was no need to get a second opinion. He also assured me that the blurriness after long periods in front of the computer screen and around the outer edges of the eyes was normal. And that I was still adjusting to the lenses.

I am to continue with the steroid eye drops until my next appointment in July.

By now I have accepted this as how it will be. Damage goods, as is, life is good by lowering my expectations.

(Photo credit: When in Zazzle type in the Search Funnyjokes Gifts, then click on clothing. Not all of these are in this shop. Or go where it states Funnyjokes when looking at the clothing and then to the Things to Ponder product line. Also found here)

Ten Months Later

After all this time, I feel like my eyes have FINALLY healed.

Ending on a Happy Note

Until now, I had no idea the world was not shown in an antique tint. No wonder I love vintage products.

Update in 2013

In May 2013 I had what is called After Cataract or called the YAG Laser Treatment.

This is a cataract behind the lens of both eyes and can happen to some people after cataract surgery.

Disappointed - I Won't Sugar Coat This

Focus T-shirt
Focus T-shirt

Focus T-Shirt by marcscreations

If I had to do it over again, I would get multifocal lens, the presbyopia-correcting IOLs (corrective vision for far and near). Even though my insurance considers that cosmetic cataract surgery, why would anyone want defective lenses replaced with imperfect lenses?

I am disappointed that my doctor was not upfront with me and extremely disappointed that my eyes are slow at healing after cataract surgery.

2016 Update

My vision is good. Though at times I see the racing lights at the sides of my eyes. I have what looks like 100's of floaters from the YAG Treatment. Some days it is not so bad and other days it bothers me.

I am still disappointed in my doctor for not being upfront.

I am disappointed that companies can sell lenses that I call defective. Because if they don't fix your vision to 20/20 far and near, then it is defective.

I am disappointed that the United States is one of the few countries that will allow companies and doctors to put in these cheaper lens implants.


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