Here’s the good news!
Dr. Sean beamed at me as he pushed back from my eye examination.
He is probably in his mid- 30’s, but he looked like a 12-year old who had just completed the final level of a video game.
Your eyes are healthy!
Great! Now I braced for the bad news.
Well, it isn’t really bad news.
Your cataracts haven’t grown much, so the light flashes you’ve been experiencing in that left eye are due to dryness and irritation from your contact lenses. I’ll be prescribing antibiotic eye drops for a month. And, there’s no sign of glaucoma or macular degeneration… yet.
The dry eye and antibiotics information barely registered. That seemed pretty benign. And glaucoma and macular degeneration sounded like things I could put off worrying about for awhile.
Instead, I focused on the part about cataracts. They haven’t grown too much? That means they’ve grown, right?
Dr. Sean patiently explained that all of us (how nice of him to include himself, don’t you think?) will get cataracts as we… cough, cough… get older.
They get worse over time, but it’s not a big deal, he said. At some point we just have to have them removed from our eyes.
Removed … that means cut out.
So, when will I need to have it done?
He smiled and patiently explained that my cataracts could suddenly grow larger or it could take another few years.
We’ll know when it’s time, he said kindly and I thought he was going to pat me on the head.
When I got home with my antibiotic eye drops, I went immediately to my primary self-diagnosis website, WebMD.
“Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye, and can affect people of any age, but are most common in men and women age 65 and older. Approximately 75 percent of people age 75 and older have cataracts.”
So, I’m definitely in the age zone. But what exactly are cataracts?
“A cataract is a progressive, painless clouding of the natural, internal lens of the eye. Cataracts block light, making it difficult to see clearly.”
“Over an extended period of time, cataracts can cause blindness”
Now that’s scary.
Here’s what else I learned, in no particular order of additional scariness:
- Outpatient cataract surgery involves removing the clouded lens via suction. (Suction in my eye?)
- The lens is replaced with a clear, artificial, plastic one. (I’ll have plastic permanently residing in my eye?)
- It’s the most frequently performed surgery in the US, with 1.5 million surgeries done each year. (That’s a lot of Porsche payments for ophthalmologists.)
- At least 90 percent of people who have cataract surgery have vision improvement. (What about the other 10%?)
- The operation lasts less than one hour and is almost painless. (Almost?)
- Most people choose to stay awake during the operation (Are you kidding me?)
- Someone will need to drive you home. (As if you have to make a special point of this?)
I actually know quite a few people who have had cataracts removed. They’re happy. They say they got instantaneous great results. They say they should have done it sooner. They say it’s a piece of cake.
I’m glad for them, but I just don’t like the thought of eye surgery for me.
I was never one of those people, for example, who was brave enough to do LASIK eye surgery to correct my farsightedness, even when it was trendy. I had enough problems just getting used to my contact lenses and remembering where I put my glasses.
But since I plan to be around into my 90’s, playing golf and streaming videos on my iPad (or its equivalent in the 2040’s), this surgery doesn’t look like it’s going to be optional.
But I think I’ll opt not to be awake.