Friday, March 06, 2015

Can You Reverse Cataracts With Diet?
When It's Time To Get Surgery

Have you been putting off cataract surgery?

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Can You Cure Cataracts Naturally?
I developed cataracts in my 40's. And if you know me at all, you know I will do absolutely anything to naturally cure any medical condition. Well, you may be able to prevent cataracts with a good diet, even slow their progression, but once you have them, surgery is the only sure way to reclaim your vision.

My Personal Story
For years I delayed the inevitable. After all, I could still see well enough that I could walk around without glasses. But things were getting blurrier and blurrier. Although I could read with prescription glasses well enough, my distance vision (needed for driving) could no longer be corrected. I thought that I just got a bad pair and kept insisting that the optometrist remake them but when I finally saw a really good cataract specialist, he informed me that my vision was beyond the point that glasses would work effectively.

I stopped driving at night years ago because of the glare and halos from the oncoming traffic. During the day, I could no longer read street signs so I quit driving all together. I don't like driving so I used that as an excuse but the truth is, I couldn't see. After knocking over a few water glasses, I also realized that my depth perception had become diminished. 

Did you know that by the time a person is 60, the light passing through their lens has been reduced by 50% and by 80 it can be reduced to 75%!

Types of Cataracts
A cataract is when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. There are several different kinds.
My left eye had two types of cataracts; a nuclear and a cortical.
A nuclear cataract forms in the nucleus or central part of the lens. Most people get these from aging. 
A cortical cataract (pictured above) is characterized by spoke-like opacities that start around the edges of the lens and work their way to the center.
My right eye only has a nuclear cataract.

There's a third type called a sub capsular cataract that occurs in the back of the lens. People who take high doses of steroid medications or are diabetic are at risk for this type of cataract.

I decided to have my left eye done since it was in the worst shape. Needless to say, I was very nervous about having surgery on my eye.
What if I move my eye during the operation? I live in California, what if an earthquake hits in the middle of the surgery? I thought of at least a dozen other horrifying scenarios. But everyone I know who has had this surgery said it was a piece of cake. And they were right!

This experience is with Dr. Daniel G. Rich in Santa Rosa and the surgery was at the 4th Street Laser Surgery Center. You may have a different experience somewhere else but this team rocked!

I went in at 7:15 AM. I didn't even get into a gown. They covered me with this comfy warm blanket. First they gave me drops to numb my eye then more drops to dilate it. Now some people say that the dilating drops burn like hell but they didn't bother me that much.

I have horrible veins so I was quite anxious about getting the IV. While I was busy telling Patty, the technician, that she will never find my vein, she had already found one and completed the IV. Wow, that gave me a lot of confidence!

Then the anesthesiologist told me he was going to make me comfortable but I would be awake. AWAKE? I don't really want to be watching this thing - I'd rather be out like a light. But it turns out that if you are not awake, your eyes sort of roll back and they couldn't do the operation. Who knew?

So they "made me comfortable" which was fun and then they have you look up into a light. It was like looking at baby lava lamps - it took me back to the 60's. 

First, Dr. Rich "drew" on my eye because the lens I picked needed to be put on the proper axis. Then, he put a tiny 1/8" to 1/4" slit in my eye. Using a tiny suction device, he then removed the bad part of the lens leaving a thin capsule behind which maintains the natural anatomy of the eye. This process is called phacoemulsification. Once removed, he implanted a plastic lens where the cloudy lens used to be which should last the rest of my life. He didn't even have to stitch up the incision. Lastly the doctor gave me an injection in my eye so that I didn't have to bother with eye drops for the next 30 or 40 days. You can only imagine how "comfortable" I was not to notice him giving me a shot directly into my eyeball! 

The surgery itself only lasted about 15 minutes and I left the surgical center around 9:00 AM.

Picking a Lens
There are several types of intraocular lenses you can select. 
A standard lens is a fixed focus mono focal lens. It's great for distance vision but you will probably still need reading glasses. These work great if you don't have astigmatism. Most insurance companies, including Medicare, will pay for this lens.

A toric lens is similar to the standard lens except that it will also correct for astigmatism. I got this one. It cost $1200 extra and is usually not covered by insurance but it's worth every penny. 

There are several other types to consider like the Tecnis MF, ReSTOR that has concentric rings with 2 focal points (so you can see distance and close up) but you may see rings and halos at night so I had no interest in that.

Post Op
The first day, my vision was very cloudy and milky and my eye was very scratchy. I took a tylenol but didn't really even need that. It's important to sleep with a hard patch for a week so you don't roll over on your eye.

The next morning I removed the patch and looked out the window. I saw trees and the mountain off in the distance so crystal clear that I started to cry. I hadn't experience that type of joy since the birth of my children! I covered my operated eye and looked through my other one and saw how blurry things were. I had no idea how much my eyes had deteriorated but now that I can do a side by side comparison, it's really obvious. Colors are completely different too. With one eye I see grey and the other I see gold. I am starting to wonder how I decorated my house or selected my wardrobe.

The first day after my surgery, my vision was already 20/25.
Everything looked so much clearer.

This morning we went to the ocean. I could see the individual rocks on the breakers where before they looked like one big stone wall. My life has changed forever. 

While writing this, I am in my 5th day of recovery. Up until today, my eye felt like it had a contact lens in it but today that feeling is going away.

Bottom line, I am thrilled that I finally had this surgery. I would love to have my other eye done soon. (SEE UPDATE BELOW)

As simple as this procedure sounds, every surgery comes with risks. So if you are considering doing this, find the very best surgeon you can. And get a specialist, someone who has lots of experience doing this surgery. 

The Gift of Sight
My cataract surgeon, Dr. Rich, volunteers his time to several organizations and performs free surgeries on those who do not have insurance. If you would like to help provide site to those in need, go to Operation Access or Seva

Operation Access is an organization operating in the Bay Area of California. With over 1100 medical volunteers like Dr. Rich they have provided surgeries for over 7500 low-income, uninsured workers. Besides eye surgery, they provide other types of medical care too. 

Seva is a worldwide organization that works with local partners and hospitals in 20 countries around the world including the United States. Seva focuses on eye care and has helped 3.5 million people to see again.

Surgery Results on my Second Eye - Not so Good
In mid April I got my second eye done. The procedure went as smoothly as the first. I was 20/20 the next day. But later that night, I had pain in my eye and at my next appointment my vision degraded between 20/25 and 20/30. 

Two and a half months later, on my 25th wedding anniversary, an unusually big floater appeared in the eye. Dr. Rich explained that it was only PVD (Posterior vitreous detachment), not uncommon for someone who just had cataract surgery. This is where the clear gel-like fluid inside your eye starts to collapse and shrink away from the retina. 

But the next day, additional strands of cobwebs appeared along with flashes of light. My retina had torn in two places and also hemorrhaged. I immediately was sent to the North Bay Vitreoretinal surgery center where they lasered my tears and hopefully prevented a retinal detachment. I will find out next week at my followup appointment. Read more about my retinal tear. 

So there is risk with cataract surgery. At this point, the eye with the repaired retinal tear is worse than before my cataract surgery. I'm hoping for two things. One, that I can avoid having a retinal detachment in both eyes (evidently I am now at high risk for this) and two, that the floaters, cobwebs and cloudiness I am experiencing in this eye improves. After all, the point of having the cataract surgery in the first place was to improve my vision. So far, my left eye still has perfect vision and good results. I pray that it stays that way.


The Queens Table said...

I had my eyes done last year and the difference is amazing! So thankful for the operation! The whole thing was a breeze. One of these days I will share my experience on my blog and I will refer people to your post as well! Thanks for sharing!

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

So glad you had good results too. It's a real life changer!

Melanie Bishop said...

What a wonderful, detailed, inspirational story! So happy for you. Wow.

Christine Gallagher said...

Wonderful! So happy that it all went well. I have to have that at some point, but the specialist said I have to wait for it to get worse. My Dad just had this operation a month ago and is thrilled! He's now raising money for poor people in India to get the procedure. Costs $250 there. Thanks for sharing your story!

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Christine, my doctor said the old advice about waiting until it's bad or until the cataract "gets ripe" is no longer true. It is only about your quality of life and when you think it is effecting what you can do. So if you aren't noticing any symptoms, like difficulty seeing at night, seeing halos around lights, not being able to see street signs (even with glasses), etc., then you can wait. But if you are having symptoms, then it's time. But you're pretty young still so I would imagine that you aren't having these problems.
I immediately looked into donating into charities like Seva and Operation Access because I can't think of a better gift than the gift of site. To think you can change a person's entire life with a 15 minute operation is amazing! Good for your Dad. He's always looking out for people in need.
Take care,

Debra said...

Thank you for sharing your experience with cataract surgery. Your post was very well done and interesting. I am super happy you had good results!!