My Aging Eyes Have Cataracts

As a Baby Boomer, I am getting older and so are my eyes. My aging eyes became evident when I noticed the need for more light to read. Then driving at night grew difficult. At first, I simply added the light and avoided night driving.

It turns out I have cataracts in both eyes. Luckily, today’s medical technology gives me some solid options. My optometrist referred me to an ophthalmologist, who scheduled me for cataract surgery.

I initially felt apprehensive. After all, who wants another surgery? Most of us in our 60’s want to avoid them. But talking to others who had cataracts, I got excited about the idea of having better vision again.

Take Time To Educate Yourself 

Before committing to surgery, I decided to educate myself. First, I read about cataracts themselves.

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye (the part of the eye that focuses light). Age and other factors cause lens tissue to thicken and clump together, causing blurry vision.

An ophthalmologist corrects the problem by removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. Some choice exists in the type of artificial lens. Take time to learn about them and understand why the doctor suggests a particular kind of lens.

Insurance Only Covers The Basics

Most insurances and Medicare limit how much they pay for cataract surgery, so make sure you can pay any additional charges. Insurance typically covers the traditional spherical lens. However, many eyes are not spherical, so the covered lenses likely won’t correct nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism like premium lenses.

So Many Lens Choices

In addition to the one-size-fits-some lens covered by Medicare and most insurances, other options include Monofocal and Accommodative lenses. Monofocals correct farsightedness in one eye and nearsightedness in the other. Multifocals or accommodative lenses correct both distance and near vision without glasses.

Some individuals like myself have astigmatism and need a Toric. Astigmatism causes blurred vision due to an irregular-shaped cornea (the clear front of the eye) or because the lens of the eye is curved. Astigmatism requires a specially shaped lens to correct this blurred vision.

For those having a previous eye surgery, such as Lasik, calculating the precise and accurate lens implant prescription and position is difficult. Since I had Lasik a decade ago, I needed an experienced ophthalmologist to ensure the best correction.

Though more expensive, Toric lenses give me the best chance at restoring my vision, and the lenses last forever. After determining the lens type, my next step involved scheduling the necessary appointments.

Choose Your Scheduling Wisely

Each eye has a separate schedule. The doctor needs to make sure the first eye heals and is usable before operating on the second. Each surgery requires a follow-up appointment the following day, again a week later and then again at four weeks.

For most of these appointments, you need a driver since the surgeries themselves require anesthesia. Also, the follow-ups require dilation of the eyes.

Stay Tuned for Surgery

By age 75, about 70% of Americans have cataracts. That means tens of thousands of Baby Boomers will join this group in the coming year alone.

Yes, I’m a Baby-Boomer, but I didn’t expect cataract surgery for many years yet. I’m lucky I regularly went to a conscientious optometrist instead of a “chain eye store.” An optometrist dilates eyes and can spot problems before they become severe.

In addition to cataracts, I also have a condition that increases eye pressure, which can lead to glaucoma. My cataract surgery will solve both conditions. Stay tuned as I learn more about and experience this surgery and adjust to my “new eyes.”

See Part 2 here.