Case Study: Adrian
Most people know that cataracts get worse over time – but when exactly is the right time to have them removed?
That was a question that Adrian, 71, faced when his cataract-induced eyestrain went from manageable to intolerable within the space of a few short months.
“I’m a business coach and mentor, so I do a lot of work online,” he explains. “But in recent months I’d noticed my eyes were becoming extremely strained whenever I looked at my laptop screen.
“When I stared at the computer screen, it was almost hurting.”
“It wasn’t as though I was completely unaware that I had cataracts. I’d had a routine eye test about a year before. The optician said my eyes were starting to show the first signs, but that surgery might still be a long way off. As it turned out, however, they got a lot worse over the next few months.
“I guess you’d say it was a bit like having a partially-frosted sheet of glass in front of your face. I couldn’t see all the words clearly when I was reading. When I stared at the computer screen it was almost hurting. I don’t want to exaggerate the problem but it got to the stage where it was very, very uncomfortable.
“So at that point I thought to myself, ‘This is so uncomfortable that I’m going to look into having surgery privately.’ I’m fortunate enough to have a health insurance policy, and when I got in touch with the company they told me I would be covered for cataract surgery.”
On a recommendation from his optician, Adrian fixed an appointment with Sapphire consultant Andrew Luff. Mr Luff examined Adrian’s eyes and then talked him through the ins and outs of cataract removal.
Cataract surgery involves removing the eye’s cloudy lens and replacing it with a clear, artificial implant. This new lens can provide visual correction for long- or short-sightedness: either with a single point of focus (monofocal), or a multifocal lens that offers a degree of freedom from spectacles for many everyday tasks. (For more detail, read our cataract briefing; see especially “Which implant lens should I have?”)
Having worn glasses routinely for over 50 years, Adrian says it felt quite strange to contemplate the idea of being able to dispense with them in any capacity.
“I’ve worn spectacles for short-sightedness since I was about 18 – and in the end of course you just get used to it. It was just a question of having regular eye tests to make sure the prescription was accurate. So that’s what I had been doing ever since.
“I really didn’t know much about cataract surgery, to be honest. But what I liked about Mr Luff was his confidence. Sometimes you meet professionals who know their job inside out, where you can tell, intuitively, that you’re in safe hands. That’s how he came across. And I found that very reassuring. After that initial consultation I knew I’d made the right choice of surgeon, because he gave me lots of confidence.”
“In a world that’s so often chaotic and stressful, the whole process was swift and trouble-free.”
As it happened, the operation was able to go ahead more quickly than he had imagined. “I had one eye done on the Monday, followed by the other one on the Thursday of the same week! Normally you’d have longer between the two operations [the NHS estimates an average of six to 12 weeks between procedures], but Sapphire were able to be flexible around my diary.
“I didn’t really feel any nerves on the day. When I got to the hospital – the Nuffield Wessex, near Eastleigh – they were very efficient. I was really impressed with the staff. When I got into the operating theatre everything was lined up and ready to go. The operation itself lasted about 20 minutes from beginning to end, and Mr Luff explained everything as he went along, step by step. There was no pain involved whatsoever.”
Post-op, Adrian found the vision change was fairly dramatic. “The impact was almost immediate,” he recalls. “If I looked about four feet in front of me, I could see everything more clearly without my spectacles than I could with them on. My short to long range vision was brilliant.
“Mr Luff and the nurses had advised me that I would need some reading glasses for very close-up work, so after the operation I went out and bought a couple of pairs of inexpensive reading spectacles. In the first few weeks after surgery you need to give your eyesight a bit of time to settle down, so you can assess what prescription you need for clear and near vision.
“When I went back to the same opticians, they did another eye test and recommended a glasses prescription that would allow me to see very clearly in the very short range. And I’m very happy with that. I’m now cataract-free, but I no longer have to wear spectacles all the time either. I just pop a pair on now and again when I’m working.”
Eyestrain, too, is now a thing of the past. Putting it all together, Adrian says he would recommend the procedure for anyone who might be in a similar position.
“The whole process was very swift and trouble-free – and frankly, in a world that is so often chaotic and stressful, that’s a big relief. You don’t get many things in life that are more important than your eyesight; to have it resolved so quickly and so efficiently was very pleasing indeed.”