2021-09-22 – My cataract

As well as being very short-sighted in my right eye, I have a cataract in my left eye.

This post is going to discuss medical stuff that you might prefer to skip.

how it was

When I was very small, my grandmother saw me squinting and told my parents that they should get my eyes looked at; and that’s how we found out I had a congenital cataract.

It is (or was) weird enough to make opticians curious: it was like a little crystal in the middle of the lens. The effect on my vision was curious too.

In bright light, when my pupil was small, I could see almost nothing with my left eye, so I had no depth perception. This was problematic for school games involving flying balls, like cricket or tennis.

In low light I could see blurry shapes, but for a long time I thought my left eye was basically useless. But when I was about 20 we went on a trip to a theme park. I went in to a 3D cinema, not expecting to get much out of it, but I didn’t want to be separated from my friends. I was surprised that I did, in fact, see the exaggerated 3D effects of a dog putting its nose in my face and things like that. Fun!

(lack of) treatment

When I was still growing, I regularly (once or twice a year) went to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London to get the cataract examined by an expert. It never really changed much, and it wasn’t troublesome enough to justify surgery, especially since I was still growing and surgical techniques were improving, so it made sense to leave it.

I became short-sighted around puberty, and since my teenage years my eyes have just been checked by normal opticians, and my right eye messed around a lot more than my left. We continued to leave the cataract alone.

middle age

Now I am in my late 40s, and in the last few years I have started getting presbyopia. Many years ago I chose to get glasses with small frames so that the edges of the lenses were not too thick; now I peer under the lenses when I need to look closely at something.

At about the same time as I noticed I was getting long-sighted, my cataract also changed. Basically, the whole lens clouded over. This has made it obvious that I had a useful amount of peripheral vision in my left eye, because now I am much more frequently surprised by people or things that sneak up on my left.

surgery?

I had a long-delayed eye test earlier this month during which we discussed my cataract. Cataract surgery is a lot better now than it was, and my cataract is a lot more annoying than it was, so I think it’s worth getting a specialist opinion on whether surgery will help more than it hurts.

To be honest the idea of it is freaky and scary, but rationally I know a lot of people have cataract surgery each year, and I hear less horrible things about it than I do about laser surgery for myopia.

Today I got a letter from Addenbrooke’s to say their triage team had rejected my referral, because the referral form was incomplete or unclear or sent to the wrong place or something. Vexing. So I emailed my optician and my GP with a list of things that I think need to be mentioned in the referral, with reference to some useful documents about the clinical criteria needed to justify it.

Hopefully the second try will actually get a specialist to agree to eyeball my eyeball…

postscript

A few weeks later some combination of my GP and optometrist managed to get the referral un-rejected, so I have an appointment with the Addenbrooke’s cataract clinic on 23rd February 2022. A bit of a wait, but I was told to expect it…


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