The Big Optometry Blog on cataract
Author: Chris Bennett
There are some weeks when the impact of demographics hits home and this one has been a week in which the prevalence of cataract has also made itself felt on this editor.
Being into my 50s put me in that category of people whose kids have pretty much left home, (far from completely) but whose older relatives are beginning to need more help.
Conversations about medical conditions are a regular occurrence for most of us. This is usually accompanied by the understanding that that person is ill. Everything from a sore toe Alzheimer’s is a medical condition for which people make allowances, send flowers.
But what about cataract?
I’m often called on to make a trip to once of the older ladies who lives close by. The usual reason is to reach something down from a high place, lift a piece of furniture or try and resolve a technical issue with a telephone or TV.
This week on one side I was called to help out a neighbour who had a problem with her telephone but it turned out not to be technical at all. The issue was that she simply couldn’t see well enough. Some buttons had been pressed and the usual memory pre-dial button wasn’t working. Because of her eye condition and the loss of that redial my neighbour was cut off from the world.
I believe a cataract replacement had been discussed many years ago but, into her 90s, that didn’t seem an option.
A slightly younger relatively-recently widowed neighbour also had reason to call up my wife for assistance recently. She had been into hospital for her cataract operation so I was surprised to see her at home on her own. She looked quite chipper and was embarrassed to ask if I could open the bottle of anti-inflammatory drops she had been sent home with. She didn’t have the strength in her hands and couldn’t read the label.
I opened the bottle (not easy) and then asked if she needed help putting the drops in. Embarrassed she said no before proceeding to spill a good stream of the treatment past the front of her eye and down her cheek. I suggested she sit down and take her time.
Cataract is age-related and age comes to us all. She seemed happy and she had taken the medical help on offer.
More worrying is the friend. Mid fifties, a senior professional who commutes between two major cities each day. She had always been emmetropic but had recently started wearing readers. She had gone back to her optician because she wasn’t getting on with the specs only to be told she had cataracts. I didn’t get the impression a discussion had taken place about how she would continue to get to work or what might happen now in her job, how long her eyesight might allow her to continue with daily life. But she was going to carry on as normal as she not really ill, is she?