Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Revitalizing Sight Doesn’t Mean Sore Eyes

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“Certainly we encourage you to eat breakfast,” the doctor’s assistant smiled through the phone when I called a couple of hours before my scheduled laser eye surgery.

I hadn’t been able to eat after midnight on each of the two days when my cataract-clouded lenses were replaced with modern-technology’s prescription lenses designed to end some six decades of requiring spectacles to see.

And I asked how long we would be. The technician checked my file and said, “I see we’re doing both eyes so you should be in and out of here within an hour.”

Both eyes! No one had told me that.

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Which is one of the major reasons for this piece.

Always ask, and keep on asking, whenever you undergo anything medical. No matter what. In this case, it wasn’t shocking to hear both eyes would be repaired at the same time. But not knowing could have been a problem when I filled out the required pre-surgery paperwork.

Right at the beginning, the form asks what you’re in for: Right Eye, Left Eye, or Both Eyes. I knew they were going to correct the major astigmatism in my right eye because computer images showed a major flaw on the orb. I would have circled Right Eye and set myself on a course that would have been trouble for the team assembled to correct my vision.

Both sides were to blame for this communications gap. I hadn’t asked and they must have assumed someone told me.

It all began more than a dozen years earlier when my eye doctor, during a routine annual eye exam, commented that I should look forward to removal of my cataracts because I would be able to junk my glasses. I had been wearing “Coke bottle” prescription glasses since I was nine when we moved from a rural hamlet into the city and a school nurse discovered I had to look cross-eyed to read.

I had noticed I was losing some of my night vision. It was nothing drastic but the ey doctor got me thinking and I began shopping around for prices. The question was how much it would cost and what was entailed in removing my cataracts and eliminating my need for glasses, which were costing around $500 a year. I went to three other doctors besides my own.

All four described what I call Steps 1, 2 and 3. Step 1 entailed the removal of my cataract-clogged lenses and replacement with a plain lens and continue wearing glasses as I had most of my life. Medicare covered almost all the cost of this.

Step 2 was to have a short-sighted lens placed in one eye and a far-sighted lens in the other eye and, while my eyesight would improve, I would still require reading glasses. This required some additional out-of-pocket costs.

Step 3 entailed removing the impaired lenses, and replacing them with prescription lenses. This involved the most out-of-pocket costs. The extra costs involved in Step 2 and Step 3 ranged from about $2,000 for each eye to $7,000 per eye.

I decided to stick with my doctor, because his prices, while not the lowest, were on the lower side of the median. I chose Step 3 because it also included the cost of correcting the astigmatism in my eyes. Reviewing what I paid for eye exams and eyeglasses each year, my surgically new eyes would pay for themselves within five years.

I chose to have the second lens implanted two weeks after the first. I had trouble waiting that long after receiving the first implant. The result was fantastic. I could see out of that news lens immediately. The procedure ate up most of the morning but the surgery itself took about 10 minutes. Stated simply, the clouded lens is sucked out and a plastic lens – think of a small contact lens – with spring-loaded sides to hold it in is set into your eye. The rest of the time was used up in preparing for surgery and staying put for observation immediately afterwards.

About a month later, I was waltzed into surgery again to have astigmatism in each eyeball corrected by laser surgery. That, too, was a breeze.

But I wasn’t through, and that’s what we were dealing with in this latest development. What occurred to me happens in one-third to half of the cases of lens-implant procedures. I had to have what is called secondary cataracts removed.

Your natural lens sits in a small sac in your eye. When the natural lens is removed, the front of that membranous sac is opened to remove the cataract lens and insert the artificial lens. In cases such as mine, the portion of the membrane remaining behind the artificial lens can cloud over, becoming what medics refer to as a secondary cataract.

The process was simple and discomfort free. I was taken in for an eye exam, my pupils dilated with eye drops and, while the doctor peered into my eyeballs with those white lights like he usually does, I heard a series of muffled “pop-pop-pops.” Each eye took less than a minute. I felt nothing. The popping was laser shots poking holes in the remaining membrane to let light through.

But the results were immediate. I was back to reading the newspaper with ease without reading glasses.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 9, 2022 at 3:00 am

Posted in Health

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