Cataract Surgery

About two years ago, when I still lived in Michigan, my optometrist thought he noticed "something" in my right eye. After consulting with a second optometrist in the same office, they both concluded that I might have the start of a cataract. It was still early enough in its development that they weren't 100% sure, so they scheduled a follow-up visit two weeks later when they'd be able to dilate my eyes for a better look. Sure enough...after dilation, they identified the beginnings of a cataract in my right eye.

They weren't expecting to find something like this, because cataracts don't normally occur in younger people. Also, when cataracts do form, they typically affect both eyes, but my left eye was "crystal clear" as they described it. If you read about cataracts, you'll learn that among the possible causes is eye trauma. Bingo! When I was in grade school, some kids pinned me down at the bus stop and threw what could best be described as an "ice ball" (snowball) directly at my face. It hit my eye and created a small tear. Because I was so young, I don't remember exactly what tore, but I do remember that my mother had to put eye drops in my eye for a number of weeks while it healed. It's likely that this is the cause.

Once a cataract starts, there's no known way to slow or stop its progress. The proteins in the lens of your eye begin to clump together, and as light tries to go through the—now cloudy—lens, it scatters. The result is that everything starts to get cloudier and fuzzier. Bright light makes things worse. If left to run its course, the lens will solidify and cause total blindness. For the first year or so, I would visit the optometrist to have the prescription for my right eye tweaked. But, as predicted, it eventually became so bad that I had to have an intraocular lens implant.

The procedure is extremely common, and the results are typically quite stunning. Although there are three basic implant types, I chose the ReZoom multifocal lens (the decision as to which lens makes the most sense depends on your lifestyle and what you do with your eyes). I had the surgery performed two weeks ago by Dr. Michael Gilbert of the Northwest Vision Institute, and I couldn't be happier with the results.

Basically, the procedure involves numbing your eye, creating a small incision, using ultrasound to break-up the cataract/lens, sucking out the pieces, inserting a folded intraocular lens, unfolding it, and positioning it appropriately. For a bit more context, this video does a good job explaining the general procedure. You are required to be awake the whole time. In my case, Dr. Gilbert asked me to focus on two lights, and he described how those lights would change (move, get brighter, darker, etc.) and when I'd feel pressure on my eye. Although Dr. Gilbert hasn't had this procedure himself, he had an uncanny ability to explain exactly what was going on. Consider me very impressed.

Yes, I'll agree that the surgery sounds quite freaky...especially since you're awake. But, as promised, I never experienced any pain whatsoever. If you don't count all of the pre- and post-work they do to get you ready for surgery, the procedure only takes 15-30 minutes, and it's performed on an outpatient basis.

Following surgery, I had to wear a clear eye "dome" for the remainder of the day and when I slept for the first week (photo). This keeps you from accidentally rubbing or scratching your eye. I also had to keep water out of my eye for two weeks (no, I won't post a photo of me in a shower cap, so don't ask). I couldn't lift more than 25 pounds, and I'm having to apply a set of eye drops four times each day for four weeks. All-in-all, it's an extremely fair tradeoff for the amazing vision I now have.

If you've followed along this far, you'll know it's been about two weeks since my surgery. People ask: "so, what do you see?" First, as it was described to me, your vision will continue to change as your new vision system is integrated with your brain. Although I had great vision almost immediately after the procedure, it's continued to improve. Remember that my right eye was almost at the point of doing nothing, so it wouldn't surprise me if it has to learn how to "see" again.

With the type of lens I had implanted, I do see halos (no, not that kind of Halo) at night. I knew about this ahead of time, because I had watched an excellent video at the Northwest Vision Institute before I made my decision. I expect them to diminish over time, but frankly, I'm quite used to them now, and they don't seem to negatively impact anything I do. Compared to what I could (or rather, couldn't) see with my right eye before all of this, the halos don't even matter.

I'm now walking around with no glass in the right side of my glasses. I thought I'd look extra geeky like this, but nobody even notices...not even me. Interestingly, the color in my right eye seems just a slight bit more vibrant. I haven't asked Dr. Gilbert why this is yet (perhaps UV filtering in the lens?), but I wish my left eye had similar perception! I can also resolve much smaller text at greater distances as compared to my left eye. So, regardless of whether you consider me Borg or bionic, I like what I see!

Before I close this long post, I have to note that Steve Marx, our recently-hired Atlas technical evangelist, sent me a great follow-up e-mail that he's blogged about called SwansonVision. You can create your own SwansonVision text with his sample app and confuse your friends. I got a good laugh out of that one. 🙂

If you're considering this procedure, I'd highly recommend Dr. Gilbert and his friendly staff. And, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly.

Comments (12)

  1. Paul Murray says:

    AFAIK: the cornea of your eye blocks uv light. with glass instead of lens/cornea, the UV gets through to the retina and is detected as sort of a hot white colour.

  2. Christian says:

    Did you know that patients taking a widely prescribed prostate drug, "Flomax" should alert their eye doctors before undergoing cataract surgery to avoid complications. It’s because the drug causes the iris to move by itself,  and any unexpected movement during surgery can cause injuries to the iris and other complications. I don’t know what to do.

  3. G Burrell says:

    I received a ReZoom 3 days ago.  My vision is remarkably improved, but I have a slight crescent darkness on the extreme side of my vision (about 3-6%).  Whatcauses this and will it go away or can it be corrected.  My vision has been improved remarkably, but this "slight crescent shadow" sort of bothers me.  Can you tell me what causes this, and is it going to be able to go away either over time or be correctable.  Also, I was not required to use any form of eye drops after the surgery.  Is that normal? Thank you for your insight on this.  

  4. I have had cataract surgery with the restore lens put in. Has anyone else had restore that I may chat with?


  5. Vel Wormuth says:

    I had the ReStore lens implanted 3 days ago and my vision in that eye is pretty good.  I still can’t see clearly but at some distances, (about 15 ft.) I seem to see clearer than before the implant.  My doctor says things will be better when I get the other eye done which will be in about a month.  In the meantime I am getting along well by taking the lens out of my glasses on the operated eye.  Reading is not too easy yet but watching TV is fine.  I haven’t tried to drive yet.  Please tell me about your experience.

  6. Molly says:

    I have to decide soon between the rezoom and the restor – for my op is next month. any one would like to advice on this?? thanks

  7. mswanson says:

    At the permission of the author, I’ve posted text from an e-mail that I received today that might help others who are thinking about having this surgery:

    Hi Mike, I’m 54 years old and had my first cataract surgery on my left eye on Oct.23. My right eye is scheduled for next week, Nov.5th, and I can not wait. From the age of 2 I’ve been in bifocls glasses, lazy eye, 20/400 in both eyes. I had to wear bifocals the size of coke bottles all my life. I had my 1st F/U appt. and my opthomologist/surgeon told me I have 20/20 distance in that eye. I cried I was so happy.  The doctor told me my recovery rate was "remarkable" Although I opted not to have multilens’ put in because I was not 100% sure of the outcome.  We already tried the multilens for reading and distance with contacts and I felt dizzy and seasick and was convienced I would feel the same. I feel so greatful and humbled that God gave me another set of eyes.  I’m fine with glasses for reading – pfft, I’v been wearing glasses all my life as it is. The styles of "cheater" reading glasses are very cute these days. God gets all the glory!

  8. Denise says:

    Hi all,

    I hope everyone has found the answers to their questions regarding surgical complications post cataract surgery.

    Both of my parents have undergone surgical procedure, my father a diabetic in a wheelchair only one eye, and my mother has just gone for her second due to her first finishing in trauma.

    Because of this I have written a book called “seeing is believing” by Denise Moore and have started to sell it from my website.

    Should anyone feel that they would like to contribute any information or, would like to email me then please drop by the site, hit the contact button and leave me a message.

    I do answer all email so, don’t think it will be to no avail.

    Kindest Regards to one and all.


  9. David says:

    Thanx for sharing this post.  I went through the same surgery and it is good to hear someone else’s story

  10. Glen says:

    I had implant in my right eye almost a month ago now, and I would not recommend this procedure. Eye pain, always feels like a forign object in my eye, need darkest sunglasses even to view TV and PC Monitor.

    Dotor seems to think I’m doing just dandy (quack). Vision is worse then before this procedure.

    I’ll put off left eye unless right eye somehow mends itself to at least 80%.

  11. Debbie says:

    Realizing my vision had changed I went to my ophthalmologist a year ago. He diagnosed an early cataract in my left eye but not serious enough for surgery. This year my eye was ready. However, I never experienced the cloudy vision. If I close my right eye and read with my left eye, I can’t see the letter I’m trying to read. I can see it if I look at it from the “side” or I can read it from “knowing” what it should be. In the doctor’s office I can’t read the letter  since those aren’t words on the chart.

    My surgery was yesterday and my vision is exactly the same as pre-surgery except that there’s some sort of flashing going on at the side of my eye. It’s not constant so I can’t quite get a handle on it. Also, two of the three eye drops the doctor gave me caused pain. Not a burning sensation, more like a sharp pain. He changed those two drops.

    Dr. said to give this 3 weeks. Anyone have any ideas about this? I feel like I didn’t have a cataract in the first place and whatever the problem was, still is.


  12. Lisa says:

    I also sustained an eye injury… although mine was a bit more recent. I am still experiencing some pain and a “hot sand” feeling in my eye, especially if I’m dehydrated, over a year later. Looks like it’s time to get my eyes checked!

    Great blog!


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