The Cataract Report – Blaugust 3

774 words.

Not from today, but from 2010, the last time I saw an eye doctor before 2018.

This morning I finally saw the cataract specialist. It’s been about five months since the optometrist told me I had a cataract. It looks like I never wrote a full post about that. No Blaugust back then. :)

The delay was mostly because of having to meet insurance requirements: To make a long story short, I have new insurance this year, and that insurance requires a referral from my primary care doctor, but I had to find a new primary care doctor because my old one was not in the new insurance network, all of which adds up to a lot of waiting for appointments. (There was also a little bit of me delaying making the appointments because I hate doing that.)

Of the various kinds of doctors, I usually find eye doctors the most interesting, because they have a lot of cool gadgets to look at in their office. After the interminable waiting room ordeal, which was worse than usual because this place is apparently understaffed-they were training a new person while I was there-the technician, ran a whole series of tests with a nifty machine that you look through which measures and records things. I actually spent the vast majority of my time with this technician, and had considerably more of a dialog with her than with the actual doctor.

The tests confirmed: It’s definitely a cataract in my right eye. Not that there was much doubt about it. Interestingly, my left (good) eye is perfectly normal and I can see at 20/20 with my 10-year-old glasses on. My right eye, on the other hand-on the other eye, hyuk, hyuk-is 20/100 (with my glasses, I think). That actually sounds pretty generous to me. I’m typing this in a font size of 20, zoomed 300%, and if I cover my good eye, I can barely read it through the blurriness.

There are two possible treatment options for a cataract: Option #1 is to do nothing and live with it for the rest of your life, enjoying the gradual descent into total blindness. Option #2 is surgery to remove it. I’m picking option #2. Theoretically my insurance will cover most if not all of the cost, making this one of the rare times in my life when I’m actually glad insurance exists.

I was told the surgery itself is comically simple. They make a tiny incision, use ultrasound to “break up” the old lens, vacuum it out, and insert a man-made lens. That doesn’t sound simple to me, but apparently that process takes about 10 minutes. If everything goes well, I’ll be nearly back to normal the next day, and fully recovered in a week.

There are actually three options for replacement lenses: The basic model is called a “monofocal” lens, and it’s the one covered by insurance. There is also a “multifocal” lens for an extra $2500 out-of-pocket (per eye), and an “astigmatism correction” lens for an extra $1000 out-of-pocket. The astigmatism correction option was tempting, but ultimately I didn’t think it was worth the effort. I have astigmatism but it’s not very strong and I’ve never had an issue with wearing glasses for it.

With any option, the replacement lens will be very far-sighted (“like a 65-year-old man,” the doctor said), so I’ll definitely need new glasses afterward to read my smart phone. (The expensive “multifocal” lens is better at near vision, but the doctor recommended against it because I’m only replacing one eye, and for reasons I didn’t fully comprehend they apparently work better when replacing both eyes.)

I’ll also need to see my primary care doctor (yet again) beforehand I guess to confirm that I’m well enough for the surgery. Apparently 10 minutes of work is still considered “surgery.” I’m assuming it’s yet another insurance requirement.

The surgery date is currently scheduled for September the 18th.

Early on I waffled a bit about whether I wanted to go ahead with surgery, but after five months of trying to live with a cataract I can now report that they could not possibly get this thing out of my eye fast enough. While I’m technically still able to function relatively normally because of my good eye, it’s still a constant irritant, all day, every day, and I can’t wait to get rid of it.

P. S. In other medical news, my hands are feeling incrementally better each day, though I still can’t bend my left thumb much. Now I’m a bit worried they’ll be fully healed by the time I get to see a hand specialist.

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