Friday, November 6, 2015

Cataract Journey 7: Settling in

It’s been several months (August) since my cataract surgery, and I’m adjusting to my new vision. My eyes have recovered from the surgery and my vision seem to have stabilized. It hasn’t changed noticeably over the last month or so.

So far, my experience continues to be positive. It’s amazing to open my eyes in the morning and be able to see clearly. I haven’t experienced the halos or other visual distortions that some patients with accommodative lenses report. My eyes had gradually become drier and scratchier over the years, and that is slightly improved, although I’m not sure why, maybe all the eye drops I used after the surgery. I’ve talked to other folks who’ve had cataract surgery and reported increased scratchiness afterward (to be fair, once I shared with them my optometrist’s protocol for dry eyes, they said it helped tremendously).

Here’s where I landed, vision-wise. I’ve gone from being incredibly near-sighted to being only slightly near-sighted. I had expected to be able to see clearly at intermediate (computer screen) and distance (driving) ranges, and to need reading glasses for close activities, but that turned out to not be the case. My vision for working at the computer and playing piano is excellent. I can’t remember seeing the piano music so crisply before. I can also read, unless the type is really small or I have to hold the book really close, so I use low-power over-the-counter reading glasses for reading in bed. My distance vision is not so great, especially in my weak eye. I can see well enough to drive places I already know how to get to, but reading street signs requires me to be fairly close to them (the letters and symbols of traffic signs are big enough, so that’s not a problem). I’d likely not pass the driver’s license vision test with my weak eye.

Now it’s time to decide what, if anything, I want to do about the residual near-sightedness.
One option would be to get touch-up LASIK surgery on my weak eye, or both eyes. That would give me 20/20 vision, but would cost me near vision. I’d definitely need reading glasses. Or I could get glasses just for driving and other distance activities. One of the benefits of this approach is that it’s reversible, unlike surgery. If I change my mind, I can always get the LASIK. This way, I can try out having clear distance but not near vision (and then take the glasses off!)

This is what I’ve opted to do, and it’s working out so well, I doubt I’ll change my mind. The prescription that corrects me to 20/20 is not very strong compared to what I used to need. I got the lenses that turn dark in sunlight so I don’t need an additional pair of sunglasses.
I put on my driving glasses and zing! The distant world is amazingly sharp and clear. The dashboard of the car, not so much. Fortunately, the readout of my car’s odometer is quite large. When I take the glasses off, there are a few minutes of re-adjustment to blurred distance vision, but if I focus on something near or intermediate, I quickly re-adapt.

The biggest impact of being able to see this clearly is how much less stressful it is to drive at night. There is much less glare than with my old (hard) contact lenses and much better focus than with my old glasses. As we age, we tend to stay closer to home, anyway, and poor night vision contributes to that “drawing-in” and subsequent isolation. I no longer have that excuse, and I find myself being much more willing to drive places after dark.

One thing I hadn’t anticipated was that the material that makes the lenses dark is sensitive to ultraviolet, not visible, light. Car windshields filter out most of the uv (and I don’t have a convertible). So even though the road is very bright, the lenses stay clear. I have hit upon the solution of holding the glasses outside when I stop for a traffic light, so they get a good dose of uv. They get dark and stay dark until I drive through a shady patch and then I have to wait until the next light. In our rural area, these can be few and far between; for example, my town has no traffic lights, and only one stop sign along the main street. I’m thinking I might wear my glasses on a walk into town on a sunny day a few times.

One of the first things I noticed after the surgery was how brilliant colors were, especially the blue of the sky. I still marvel at the vividness of the world, and I hope I never lost that sense of wonder.

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