Feb 04

The Eyes Have It

In Brief — The history, the people, the development of cataracts and the way they are treated. [Written in October/November 2017.]


To See or Not To See —

It’s a simple operation that can mean the difference between sight and blindness. To the person afflicted with cataracts the operation results in preliminary nervousness, but to those who have had the operation it’s a snap and an easy way to see clearly and maybe get rid of those glasses that have been a permanent feature on their faces.

What are Cataracts and What are Not? —

Simply stated, cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye that result in a dimming of the ability to see clearly. They are at the front of the eye, develop slowly and are usually seen in older people. Cataracts are not painful, but they are annoying if only because they mean more light is required to see what was once seen clearly. They are usually a result of too much exposure to ultra-violet light such as sunlight. Lens replacement surgery replaces the cloudy lens with a plastic one that cannot become cloudy.

Cataracts are not Retinal Detachment, Glaucoma or Macular Degeneration. Glaucoma is increased pressure within the eye that can injure or destroy the ocular nerve located at the back of the eye. It is inherited and can only be controlled with eye drops.

Retinal Detachment occurs at the back of the eye. It can result in blindness if not corrected. Early surgery to repair the detachment is recommended.

Macular Degeneration (wet and dry) seems to be another inherited eye disease. The wet version is more dangerous because it allows blood to leak into the eye. Surgery is recommended to stop the leakage. At present, vision can be saved but sight cannot be improved.

Regardless of causes, a hasty trip to the nearest qualified eye doctor is essential as soon as you suspect a problem. Better safe than sorry.

The History of Cataracts —

This is about cataracts, not other eye diseases, so a brief history of cataracts is in order.

Cataracts have clouded eyes for millennia. Evidence shows that humans have been afflicted with cataracts since ancient times. Early Egyptian tombs show individuals being operated on for cataracts. Documents from India and the Middle East reveal that it was known at an early age. It’s only within the last two centuries that operations have improved the rate of success. The plastic used today arose in Britain when it was discovered that airplane plastic canopy fragments were accepted by pilots’ eyes. Since then, lenses have been refined until we have today’s lens replacements.

Famous People Who had Cataracts —

It’s not just folks like me who have been afflicted with cataracts. The artist Claude Monet had cataracts. Some say that the soft colors of his paintings were the result of his affliction.

The early astronomer Galileo Galilei has been reported to have cataracts.

Queen Victoria of England had her sight dimmed by cataracts.

The actor John Goodman says he has cataracts.

Cataracts are a Common Affliction —

Famous or common, many people are or have been plagued with cataracts. I am one of those struck by the double whammy of both cataracts and glaucoma. Regular eye drops control the glaucoma pressure and allow me to see. With any luck I’ll be the recipient of lenses that will make my final years better.

Let us know how your eyes are doing. Let’s hope that modern science has worked for your eyes.

The Weekly Sampler—

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on November 2013.


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  1. Cataracts and macular degeneration (AMD) are connected. I have dry AMD in one eye and wet in the other. I also have cataracts in both eyes, not disabling but annoying nevertheless. My ophthalmologist won’t go after the cataracts because cataract surgery has been shown on occasion to convert dry AMD to wet and possibly make wet AMD worse. Since wet AMD, as in my case, can drastically lower eyesight, the cataracts are less harmful than the AMD and so have to be left alone.

    1. You prompted me to do some research on macular degeneration. My research showed that an operation on the eye can eliminate the problem. Ask your eye doctor about that possibility. Without knowing, I suspect your doctor may not be up on the latest advances. A second opinion from a younger and qualified eye doctor sure wouldn’t hurt.

      As for the relationship between macular degeneration and cataracts, I simply don’t know. Whatever your choice, good luck.

    • Elodie Pritchartt on February 5, 2018 at 00:30
    • Reply

    I’ve got the beginnings of cataracts. Biggest difference recently is my night driving. Headlights all spread out and blinding.

    1. Check your eye doctor to determine when you can have the lens surgery. My cataracts resulted in requiring ever more light to see clearly when I read. When it became noticeable that I was leaning closer to the light, I realized that it was time to get it corrected.

      The operation with the new equipment is fast and simple. I had to take drops every day for three weeks — which was a pain in the ass — but now I can see clearly even though I had the operation on only one eye. My glaucoma was too high in the left eye, so the doctor has to wait for it to come down. I’ll be checked soon.

      Check your eye doctor. If he/she says you can have the operation, get it. It’s a snap. Good luck.

    • Linda on February 7, 2018 at 23:15
    • Reply

    My ophthalmologist has told me that I have the beginnings of cataracts. I can see light blue circles around my pupils. She is watching my eyes and says she will tell me when it is time to have cataract surgery. It’s been a few years in a row that she has advised me at some point I will need to have cataract surgery. I get a check up every year. I can still see fairly well but I am never satisfied with my distance vision.

    1. Don’t fool around, Linda, get the cataract surgery soon. Read what I said to Dave. The eye doctors told me for years that I was developing cataracts. Only when I found myself needing more light to read did I realize that the time had arrived. It improved my eyesight immeasurably. Why did I wait so long? Don’t shilly-shally around, tell your eye doctor you want cataract surgery ASAP.

      As for that distance vision, it’s unlikely to improve. Live with it. Eye glasses are an easy solution. BTW, annual eye check-ups are a good idea. Keep that up.

    • Dave Meyers on February 8, 2018 at 02:10
    • Reply

    Sorry for the late comment…the flu dun’got me. So, I’ve been less than enthusiastic for the last few days.

    Marilyn had cataract surgery last year. The improvement was astounding for her.
    I was diagnosed with very minor cataracts nine years ago and told I’d need to address the issue in five years. here we are nine years later and I’m finally feeling like maybe I should do something about it. Although still quite mild, I find night driving and an issue and because my right eye has a brown tone cataract, colors in the world are effected.
    Mine seem to change from day to day, actually. Some days I’m quite aware that my right is deficient and it drives me nuts…..the next day, not so much.
    The idea of someone cutting on my eye is less than appealing……sooooooo….I may wait a bit more. My general vision is uncorrected at 20/19. My closeup vision is another issue. I have readers laying around everywhere! My need for good closeup vision has prompted me to consider correcting implants….but then I’d need glasses for distance and that’s not appealing at all. What to do?

    1. I can personally attest that cataract surgery is easier than rolling off a log. No pain thanks to the drops they give you before surgery, and the operation is over in about 20 minutes. Another set of pluses is that there’s no post-surgery pain and my eyesight is better than it has been in decades. The only thing that bothered me after the surgery was having to take eye drops (once a day) for three weeks. Everybody I know who’s had lens replacement surgery says, “Get it!!”

      Elodie also has a problem with night driving. Cataract surgery will solve that problem. Both you and Elodie would benefit from lens replacement.

      Face facts, Dave, you are getting older. Reading glasses are a way of life. The only drag is keeping track of where your glasses are. I still wear glasses when I read or do close-up work, but I no longer need more light to see.

      My advice (and I’m not alone by any means) is…GET THE CATARACT SURGERY! Oh, and a pair of reading glasses. Don’t give in to vanity, by the way.

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