file 10. Getting cataract surgery

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14 Apr 2024 02:15 #1
This winter, I got cataract surgery to remove the cataracts in both eyes that had been accumulating for over four years. In 2019, I got a new glasses prescription, but by 2020, they said the cataracts were getting bad enough that they couldn't do anything more with the prescription to help me see. By 2023, they were getting so bad that I couldn't even read street signs, and glasses barely helped the blurry vision — in fact, it was almost easier to not wear the glasses and just look at everything from three inches away without them.

So I made an appointment to get cataract surgery in September 2023. Then I promptly became incredibly anxious about the surgery. No matter how many times anyone told me that it was a super easy procedure, far less invasive than wisdom tooth extraction (which I had gotten in 2015), and the most common procedure worldwide, I got sick to my stomach every single day just thinking about it. That anxiety persisted until the day of the surgery, when we were halfway to the clinic and got a call that it had been canceled. That was the worst day of it all, since I was finally ready to accept that this had to happen no matter what, and I had gone through the dreadful preparation of not being allowed to eat or drink water for 12 hours beforehand, and suddenly I would have to live with this horrible anxiety for an undetermined amount of time afterward.

Following this, the surgery got rescheduled a total of six times, twice through conflicts with me and four times through conflicts with the surgery center. It was supremely frustrating, as soon it got pushed back far enough so that I might not even be able to view the total solar eclipse that would take place on 2024-04-08 with new vision (more on that in another topic). But eventually the surgery did take place in January for the first eye, and in March for the second.

Since cataract surgery is usually done on old people (70+ seems to be average), I was by far the youngest person getting it done when I went there. I was also by far the most nervous, since all this anxiety was catching up with me and I broke down crying in the waiting room because of it. I had asked my grandparents, who both had gotten it done before, how so many people can go through this without completely losing their heads like I did. They said that much of it is really just down to being older and having more life experience, particularly in medical stuff. I'm sure they're right, and that I'll get there one day.

The surgery itself went fine, although the surgeon had to yell at me to stop moving my eye around several times, which I kept doing because I was so nervous. It made the healing take a little longer than it would have otherwise, but I still healed well. The second eye went much more smoothly — I wasn't nearly as nervous since I knew what to expect that time. The eye drops that they make you use for four weeks afterwards were a bit annoying, but I'd rather have "a bit annoying and able to see better than I ever have" than "not annoying but also not being able to read".

In the week after surgery for the left eye, my vision went from 20/200 or worse (6/60 for any Australians reading) to 20/25 (6/7-ish). And with the right eye, my vision went from 20/100 (6/30) to 20/20 (6/6)! This is the first time I have ever been 20/20 vision, ever, and it blew me away that it's normal to see with this much detail and acuity. It was actually overwhelming and made my head spin for a few days at first.

But not to worry — there's always a catch. With the implants they put in my lenses, my focal length is now locked at arm's length, so I can't see or read anything up close, and my distance vision isn't ideal either. So I'm getting glasses in a couple weeks — I even ordered new frames for the first time in seven years! Very flashy. But the real issue is the scar tissue. Since I'm so much younger than most people getting this surgery, my body is rejecting the lens implants much faster than it would if it were older.

The scar tissue is accumulating on the lens implants pretty quickly, and blurring my previously crisp eyesight. When I went in to get my new prescription, I was reading only 20/45 to 20/50 (6/15) with my right eye. This means that the only way I can read text on a printed page is by using a magnifying glass, and I have to zoom text in on the computer to a ridiculous extent in order to read it clearly. It's so frustrating, because in the period after my left eye got done but before my right eye did, I could still put my face super close to a page to read it, but I can't do that anymore! So I'm hoping that the new glasses, which are progressive lenses, will help me read better, or at least hold me over for the next six months (ughhhhhh) until I get the scar tissue BLASTED away by a laser. I think that's technically another surgery, since they have to have a surgeon do it, but apparently it's super easy and takes less than a minute, and then I'll be able to see and read again!

But coming from four years of progressively blurrier vision to much clearer vision, even without glasses, is truly life-changing. That makes it sound stupid and dramatic, but it really was a huge, huge change and desperately needed to happen. I took a walk up a small mountain on 2024-03-31 and even though it had already been a few weeks since surgery, my head was still overwhelmed by the detail that I could see in the leaves and trees, even with scar tissue clouding the lenses. I'm so thankful to be living in the 21st century, where such a surgery is quick and easy and has such good results.

Very excited for my new frames, which complement my face much better, and I'm looking forward to playing games and seeing Marble Blast with new eyes. Maybe I won't even have to zoom my computer screen in so far anymore! And the anxiety has pretty much gone away since the second eye got done, but that means it was six whole months of awful anxiety, which I'm still trying to recover from mentally.

I still don't think I'll be learning how to drive, though. My peripheral vision is as bad as it ever was, and I think it would be dangerous and foolhardy to be on the roads when I can't see out the entire windshield at once, or even out the side window. Not to mention that the very idea of driving is terrifying. I'll let my family keep driving me places.
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16 Apr 2024 01:09 #2
Well, a full week sooner than I thought, my new glasses arrived! The frames are fantastic, and look so much better on me than the ones I had before. I couldn't stop smiling looking at my reflection in the mirror, so that's great. As for the prescription itself... well, that's another story.

It sounds like I'll have 30 days in which to make one update to the prescription for free. When I first put the glasses on, I got super dizzy. I've never used progressive lenses before (basically bifocals without the line), so these will take some getting used to. I imagine this will get better pretty quickly, but for right now, whenever I move my head, I get all dizzy and have to stop moving. While writing this post, the text is only clear if I look through a very specific part of the lens, and only through my right eye. This is a problem, because obviously I'd like to be able to read with both eyes, and the reading through my left eye only works at a distance. These lenses are supposed to let me read close up, and for some reason the left lens doesn't do that properly. I'm going to call the eye care place tomorrow and see what they can do.

The optometrist did have to make quite a lot of adjustments to the frames, including bending them slightly at the bridge to follow the curve of my face more. Maybe that has something to do with only being able to focus on text through one area of the lens. If I look more toward the right of the right lens, everything gets blurry again.

The other thing is that the prescription for distance is ±0.0 dpt for the left eye and −0.5 dpt for the right. Since the scar tissue on my lenses is blurring my vision, the eye test that I did a couple weeks ago wasn't super accurate, but now that I have the lenses in front of me, I can tell that the −0.5 is actually worse for my right eye than no lens. This makes sense, because the whole point of getting lens implants in my eyes was so that I wouldn't need distance correction in the glasses lenses at all, so I want to go back and ask for ±0.0 in my right eye and better reading capability for my left.

The other annoying thing is just how far down I have to look in order to read. At my preferred reading distance (about a handspan away from my eye), my eye needs to be looking through the very bottom of the lens in order to read clearly. I suspect that when I spend a long time reading, this could lead to eye fatigue, since it feels kind of uncomfortable even for a short while. I don't think it's designed to have to look that far down. So I have many followup questions for the optometrist and the eye doctor. Guess we'll have to wait and see how things develop, and I will of course keep a running log here.
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24 Apr 2024 02:36 #3
Today I went to see if they could adjust my prescription to help me read with my left eye and see better farther away with my right. After trying to do that by holding different lenses up to my left eye, it turns out they can't. The scar tissue is apparently preventing me from being able to read in the left eye but not in the right eye.

I only have 30 days after getting the initial prescription to refine it once. But for now, they plan to keep my prescription where it is and try to get the insurance company to cover a prescription change after the scar tissue is taken away, since that won't be happening until July/September, well after 30 days have passed.

They did say I could try to get the scar tissue removed sooner than July, but not only would that mean I'd have to go far away for that "surgery" (technically surgery since a surgeon has to do it), the surgeon might even look at my eye and determine it's not healed enough to do that procedure. So I may as well just wait until July anyway. They're going to call me to schedule an appointment with the surgeon, but I don't even think I want to take it, since I can read with one eye and see well enough to function until the scar tissue gets removed. Basically, I'm not in any rush, and I'd rather be safe than sorry.

It is annoying that they couldn't do anything to help with the glasses, and that the problem is in my eye itself — in fact, it's heavily reminiscent of when I had the cataracts, since the problem was in my eyes and not the glasses back then too. So even though it's not actually cataracts and the way to fix it is much easier than cataract surgery, it still feels like a "round two" for this whole situation.

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