Last summer I noticed a cloudiness in my left eye. I thought it might be due to cataracts, which run on both sides of my family. My husband had them a few years ago, with similar symptoms. When my eye doctor confirmed the problem in both eyes, she said that she likes referring severely near-sighted people for cataract surgery. In most cases, the treatment significantly improves their vision and they’ll need thinner eyeglasses, and sometimes, none at all.
Cataracts are one thing that make me glad I don’t live in the past. My relatives who had the surgery in the 1970s were hospitalized for a week, and afterward they had to wear Coke-bottle-bottom eyeglasses. My grandmother was an early recipient of lens implants in the 1980s. They worked well for her after her month of bed rest. Today, recovery is quick–minor restrictions like no swimming for a week.
After cataract surgery, I hope to snorkel without prescription googles. I used to think cataract surgery was a 20th century invention and people who lived earlier simply went blind. But it goes back to the fifth century BC. The treatment then involved striking the eye with a blunt object, dislodging the eye fluid and restoring limited vision. Centuries later the surgery evolved to inserting a needle into the eye and extracting the cataract. According to my cataract information sheet, today’s treatment involves inserting a fine probe into the eye, removing the cataract and then injecting a lens implant.
The year after my husband’s cataract surgery, we took a holiday in northern France. On the way to Paris, we stopped at Giverny, the former home of impressionist painter, Claude Monet. We were intrigued to learn that Monet had cataracts for almost twenty years before they were treated with surgery. Knowing this added to our appreciation of Monet’s works painted during that time. His failing vision led him to use larger brushstrokes. He saw some colours differently with cataracts. Fog increasingly shrouded his view of everything. Post-surgery he destroyed or redid some of the paintings he created when he saw his world through cataracts.
Water Lilies by Claude Monet, painted in 1920, three years before his cataract surgery, hangs in The National Gallery, London Due to my high astigmatism, my eye surgeon recommended I upgrade to a lens that corrects this problem. I further upgraded to a multifocal lens that handles distance, intermediate (computer) and reading vision. The standard lens sets vision to only one level, making glasses necessary.
It’s now two weeks after surgery on my second eye and my vision isn’t perfect. My right eye is 20/20 for distance, but the left works much better for reading. The left also sees halos and glare when I watch TV. They say this should diminish in time and my eyes will take 4-6 weeks to settle. I see well for most activities, which is a huge change after wearing glasses since I was ten years old. I’m still getting used to my naked face and find myself trying to remove or put on imaginary glasses. I wear sunglasses on windy days so grit doesn’t blow into my eyes. But it feels great, if a little strange, to wake up every morning and see the world clearly.
Monet’s garden, Giverny, France