By Holly Glen Gearhart
Something like a gradual loss of night vision can be an indicator of a problem with eyesight. So can needing more frequent (in less than two years) eyeglass prescriptions. These are only two of the most common indications that your eyesight has begun to diminish, and passing off failing eyesight as, “Oh, I am just getting older,” can be the biggest mistake you can make.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Cataract surgery improves vision in up to 95% of patients and prevents millions of Americans from going blind.” Misinformation is the number one cause for delaying treatment. Catching it early can make all the difference; waiting too long can be devastating.
A comprehensive vision examination with an ophthalmologist, not only an optician, should be performed every 1 to 2 years after the age of 60, and more often if you have diabetes. According to Healthfinder.gov, during this examination your doctor will look for indications of cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic eye disease (diabetic retinopathy) and low vision.
My optician found cataracts in both of my eyes during my exam for a new eyeglass prescription as he looked for glaucoma. He asked me if I was having trouble seeing at night. I said yes, and that a year ago I stopped driving at night unless I was just running to the store for groceries on a known, well-lit route.
Then I told him that for years my right eye (though affected by brain surgery 20 years prior) was increasingly difficult to focus with any combination of bifocals or distance sighted glasses. In fact, both of my eyes will, if I become tired or do much physically, be hard to focus. It is as if I am trying to look through lace.
When this happens I try eye-drops and alternating heat and cold pads on my closed eyelids, as blinking excessively can restore my sight. Clearly there is something wrong with my eyes and I am trying to decide who will do the surgery if the ophthalmologist determines I need it.
Losing your eyesight is a horrible idea for anyone; it is especially daunting for me as I have made my living as a professional photographer since I was 17. Eye surgery scares the dickens out of me, so I turned to someone I trust who just had surgery to remove her cataracts; my mother-in-law, Carol.
Carol wrote to me last week about her cataract surgery. “Great news, cataract surgery does not hurt,” she said. “I felt no pain or discomfort during or after the surgery. I did have a slight headache (or eye ache) which responded well to Ibuprofen, so basically no discomfort at all.”
That is great news! I had imagined something a little like cavemen standing over me working with candlelight in one hand and a vacuum cleaner in the other.
In my research for this article I found an exemplary site on the Internet that answers a slew of questions regarding cataracts among other sight abnormalities: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts.asp. I highly recommend anyone who is experiencing the slightest problem with their eyesight to seek an informed opinion. Medicare and many supplemental insurance programs will cover these, and if you do not have coverage seek out help from DSHS and the Lions Club.
The Lions Club has a program specific to cataracts called SightFirst: “…the SightFirst program has played a key role in reducing blindness, especially blindness due to cataract,” reads Lions Club information on the program. “To date, the SightFirst program has awarded $71.6 million for 526 cataract-related projects. The program has provided support for more than 7.84 million sight-restoring cataract surgeries…SightFirst cataract projects and initiatives have been partially responsible for the development of government subsidized cataract surgery programs.”
You can find more information on the Internet: http://www.lcif.org/EN/our-programs/sight/fighting-diseases/cataract.php .