Terrified of cataract surgery

Posted , 8 users are following.

i have always been scared about touching my eyes. Never had or considered contact lens.   Now I am to have cataract surgery.   What should I expect?  Will I feel anything? I don’t want to be aware of the procedure. Can I be given anesthesia?   What is all this stuff about different lens?  Totally in the dark.   I am in the US and am under Medicare and a good supplemental insurance.   

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4 Replies

  • Posted

    Hi Ellen,

    ?I too was surprised to hear those words come out of the doctor's mouth and I was terrified.  Rest assured it was not as horrible as anticipated. I had local anesthesia and felt absolutely NOTHING.  I was awake the entire time that only took about 8 min.  Two weeks later I went in for the second eye.  They sat me back and before I knew it I was sitting up looking through my new lens.  I worried myself sick for nothing to be honest.  You should talk to your physician about the different types of lenses that fit your needs.  For instance, I never wore glasses only cheaters and I did not want to wear glasses again rather it be for reading or anything else.  My lenses were not covered by insurance and were $2,500 each out of pocket.  I am quite satisfied now.  As you know, there are good and bad with anything you may get and they have to tell you the risks involved for legal issues.  I'd recommend a lengthy discussion with your doctor and not rush your choices.  

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  • Posted

    Hi Ellen - can totally relate.  I was terrified too and blindsided by diagnosis of cataracts at 53.  Had both surgeries summer of 2017.

    Believe it or not going to the dentist is more painful than having cataract surgery.   Your eye will be frozen so you don’t feel a thing.  Some clinics/hospitals will also give you a mild sedation.  I live in Canada and had no IV but I was offered an Ativan to calm my nerves.  The procedure is also very quick.  More involved in the prep than actual surgery & surgery is less than 10 minutes.

    Have you had a consult yet with your surgeon/opthamologist?   If not it would help you to write down all your questions so that you don’t forget to ask anything.

    There are different lenses and no matter which you choose you’ll see so much better afterwards.   There are pros and cons to each type of lens - no perfect one yet out there.  But they have much improved.  When I was first told I needed cataract surgery all I could think of was my grandmother’s surgery and the thick coke bottle glasses she needed afterwards.  Much has changed.   In fact I don’t wear glasses at all anymore except for plain sunglasses as everything is so bright.  For months I even wore them inside the house.  Everything g had a brown tint to it when I had cataracts and I didn’t know till after one eye operation the difference was!

    I chose a Symfony extended depth of focus lens (EDOF) which gives me better range of focus.  The trade-off is night vision as I see multiple concentric circles around certain light sources at night (ie red traffic lights).  So with premium lenses like these you tend to have more glare and halos.  If I needed to drive a lot at night or was a pilot these would not be lenses I would have considered.  But the glare diminished with time and although I see a spider web effect around some lights these are faint and I do drive at night now without thinking about it.   Regular monofocal lenses provide good vision for one focal point so you would need glasses for other distances.  You can chose to have them for distance, intermediate or close.  The plus is there is better night vision without halos and glare (although a small percentage of people still experience that)- but to a lesser degree than premium lenses.  Some opt for a mini monovision or full monovision with monofocal lenses meaning one eye is targeted for distance and the other eye for intermediate so that way they get more range of focus and only need glasses for tiny print.  

    What I found helpful was making a list of what I use vision for at work, hobbies etc.  It helped guide my decision to know where I spend my time.  Prior to my surgery I was nearsighted and only wore glasses to see distance (like driving).  It bothered me to think I would lose my near vision as it wasn’t something I was accustomed to.  

    Take your time is my best advice.  Read up on the lenses and these forums are very helpful.  Cataracts aren’t life threatening and develop slowly so no urgency in making a quick decision.   If your eyes can still be corrected with glasses there is no need for the surgery yet.  My eyes couldn’t be corrected  by glasses better than 20/60 and 20/50 so I didn’t delay too much.

    Wish you all the best and if you have any questions just reach out.  Lots of great people with good advice here on the forums.  Many helped me out when I was going through this.

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  • Posted


    My advice is to spend as much time as possible doing research on your lens and surgery options. You didn't mention if both your eyes are in the same condition, but if one is substantially better than the other you can put off surgery in the "better" eye until you are ready.

    As to your surgery options, there are definitely surgeons who will offer IV sedation and if you tell them how nervous you are they can control the amount of anesthesia to the point where you won't even know the surgery happened. Please note, however, that if you opt for laser surgery (usually an optional ADD) you will have to be fully alert for the initial portion of the surgery (removal of your existing lens) which takes about 45 seconds (you'll have numbing eye drops and maybe feel a bit of stinging). They will then very quickly give you the IV sedation and complete the surgery.

    You may find that insurance will balk at the cost of IV sedation but if you persist I think you'll find that most surgeons will work with you on this. For example, they can report that the patient was extremely agitated and surgery wouldn't have been "safe" without sedation. 

    Back to the IOL (lens) choice. Talk to your surgeon, get his/her opinions and then come back tot his board and start doing research. You'll get lots of comments about the different options. There is no one, perfect lens for everyone and (as of now) the ones that correct vision at more than at one distance all have tradeoffs and side effects that you need to understand before you make the decision.

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  • Posted


    As always, Sue.An gave you some great advice and information. I know very little on the tech side, but I can give you a little on the personal side.

    Hubby is like you. He never had to wear contacts (very light prescription) and has never been able to touch his eyes, put in drops, etc. After his contact surgery, I put in the drops and it was honestly no big deal.

    A few months later, it was my turn. Each doctor is different, but mine automatically does an IV. Prior to surgery, we took 3 pills. I believe 2 were antibiotics and one was like Xanax (to relax). While hubby was awake, I was not. As the doc was about to begin, I think she saw that I was really nervous (very bad eyes) and gave a hand signal, or something, to up the sedation. I don't remember a thing until the end of the second eye. I woke up as they wrapped up. It's surprisingly fast. DO NOT be afraid to ask for sedation. While this might be routine for your doc, it's not for you. Ask questions. Make sure you understand exactly what you're going to get and why. If you have supplemental insurance, you may be eligible for premium lenses, but they may not necessarily be what you want and/or need. Make sure you fully understand all of your options. There is a lot of tech information that is thrown around on this site and it can be quite confusing. 

    I now have 20/20 and J1 (for reading). My vision hasn't been this good in over 40 years of contacts. While I sometimes see concentric circles, they should disappear with time. Meanwhile, there are a few tricks that I've found work well. Compared to what I've had and what I have, I'd do this again in a NY second. Each person's result can vary, so make sure you feel comfortable with your choice.

    Good luck to you and please keep us updated.

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