Case Study: John
Since cataracts usually develop slowly, the problems they cause have a habit of creeping up on us – that is, until they become too frustrating to ignore.
This was exactly what brought John, a retired accountant from Hampshire, to Sapphire Eye Care in early 2019.
“I noticed I was having difficulties with my vision at night…”
“I noticed I was having difficulties with my vision at night,” he explains, when we catch up for a chat about his experience.
“I might be walking along and the headlights from a passing car would feel incredibly bright – so bright that it almost hurt to look at them. I’d find myself having to glance away or look down at the ground.
“I realised something similar was happening when I watched television in the evenings. The picture on the TV set just felt too bright for my eyes.”
When John, 75, went to see his local optician, Howie & Tickner in New Milton, the consultant confirmed that he had developed early-stage cataracts.
Glare from bright lights – particularly at night – is a common symptom of cataracts. The lens of our eye is naturally clear, allowing light to pass to the retina unobstructed. When the lens becomes clouded by cataracts, however, light gets scattered around the eye. This interferes with retinal image contrast and makes our eyes more sensitive to brightness. Other red flags include ‘halos’ around light sources, blurred vision when looking at distant objects, and colours appearing faded or washed out.
To make matters worse John was also experiencing headaches when reading. Though he has worn glasses for short-sightedness since his teens, the pain was a relatively recent development.
“I couldn’t do more than an hour or so at a computer. I’d get a headache and wouldn’t be able to get rid of it until I’d taken some paracetamol. It wasn’t at the migraine level, but it wasn’t comfortable either.”
Since Sapphire founding consultant Andrew Luff had treated John’s wife for cataracts in 2008, John’s cataract diagnosis didn’t come as a total bolt from the blue to him. All the same, he adds, it was still a bit perturbing to hear the optician recommend surgery.
“I remember swallowing hard and thinking, ‘OK… hold your nose and go for it,’” he laughs. “Because it’s all very well to have somebody else’s story of surgery, but this would be me going through the procedure.
“But I was reassured by what the optician said. He told me all would be well and that I’d be amazed by the results. So I had no fright about what was going to happen.”
“Of course, I knew I could wait before having the surgery. But it felt like the sensible thing would be to go for it now – not to hang around, but to have the procedure and benefit from the good vision afterwards. So that’s what I did.”
When John visited the clinic at Highcliffe Medical Centre, Mr Luff examined his eyes and talked through the options for surgery. Though toric lenses are sometimes recommended for astigmatism during cataract procedures, Mr Luff felt John would be able to achieve good visual correction with standard cataract lenses. (A toric lens has different powers for a vertical line compared with a horizontal line, whereas a regular lens has just one power.) So he booked in for surgery and returned for the treatment a few weeks later.
“To be honest, I was a little bit apprehensive on the day,” John admits. “When you go into hospital, they initially measure your eyes again. Then Jane [King, Sapphire’s Ophthalmic Nurse Specialist] talked through everything again, so I knew exactly what was going to happen. But when my blood pressure was taken it had gone up to about 170, which is about the highest I’ve ever known it! So I was obviously feeling a bit nervous.
“It was all very comfortable. Nothing hurts…”
“After that, though, you meet the anaesthetist and he’s able to offer you some sedation if you want it.* So I was given some – and from that point on I felt thoroughly relaxed throughout the whole process. It was all very comfortable. Nothing hurts. In fact I found myself actually looking forward to the second operation [on the other eye], because the whole thing was so smooth and interesting.
“After the operation you’re taken back to your room. I had something to eat, and they measured my blood pressure again. And then I was free to go home. You’re given eye drops to take with you, and each one is clearly labelled, with a matrix for when you need to take them over the coming weeks.”
Because John’s first procedure was on his dominant reading eye, he wasn’t able to appreciate the full vision changes until the second procedure had been completed 10 days later. But from that point on, he explains, the difference was profound.
“It was absolutely sensational. Not long afterwards, I went up to the clifftops at Barton on Sea and I remember looking out to the Purbeck Hills [25 miles away] – and I could see them with perfect vision.
“Driving and reading are fantastic now, too. I have some inexpensive glasses for reading, just 1.5 and 2 dioptres, just to see how it all settles down. But I haven’t been rushing off for the paracetamol. I read the papers, watch the TV… there’s been a real transformation.”
Having been through the process, John is happy to recommend it to others.
“Mr Luff was brilliant,” he says. “He’s very good with patient contact; he takes the time to explain things, or to explain them differently if necessary – which I know from my professional experience is very important.
“We met several people who were going in for subsequent tests after cataracts and everybody was saying how remarkable it is. To be honest, it leaves you feeling slightly euphoric.”
* Sapphire Eye Care offers intravenous sedation to all patients, delivered by a Consultant Anaesthetist.