Now some background and I'll bring it around to gardening shortly. I have a new set of eyes. Eyes...you say Betty, how so? Getting straight to the point, I had cataract surgery a few weeks ago and am still getting used to my new way of viewing the world. Most people who have this surgery are older than me (way older), my friends say things like "oh, my eighty-five year-old mother just had cataract surgery and she's doing just fine." Fine? define fine please. "She can see her TV programs better." Hmm, that's all well and good, but for an active gardener who spends more time outside than watching TV, nature looks different after cataract surgery...way different. For me, things feel closer, look larger, more than huge, even the pumpkins look bigger, dare I say planet sized. And the weirdest change was that for the first couple of weeks after surgery I physically felt shorter - like my body shrunk five inches, explain that!
I'm certainly no eye doctor, just a gal who had very poor eyesight and has worn glasses since the second grade so it will be hard for me to explain how and why these changes occurred. I'll try.
The eye's auto focus is the lens - the clear area made up of water and proteins located behind the pupil. The retina is the thin, transparent inner wall of the eye and like old school camera film it acts like an electronic sensor that converts images to signals before sending them to the brain so you know you're looking at a zebra or pink rose. The key to good, sharp vision is the lens being clear so that the retina can change the light to nerve signals that are then sent to the brain.
A cataract develops when some of the protein in the lens clumps and forms clouds which reduces the light that reaches the retina. Suffice it say that life gets blurry as cataracts grow. Colors dull out, objects may take on a brownish hue. Headlights at night may seem very bright and glaring. It's been suggested that Monet the artist suffered from cataracts and his paintings lost some detail while his use of colors became more striking. Lucky us he suffered from cataracts!
And the cause or causes? There is a fairly long list of risk factors, age being one. 40 and 50-year-olds can develop cataracts but may or may not cause any vision issues. Over the age of 60 cataracts can worsen. Read about other possible factors here from the Mayo Clinic - cataracts. I think mine came about from exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. I got a lot of sun while life guarding and teaching swimming lessons during summers in college, and the sun tanning years weren't good for my eyes or my skin. Then there's family history, both parents had cataracts. I also had very high myopia. Myopia is nearsightedness - not being able to see far away. Normal visioned people have 20/20 acuity. So a person who is 20/40 must be 20 feet away to clearly see the same object a person with 20/20 vision can see 40 feet away. I was 20/1000 before cataract surgery, (a legally blind person is 20/200). Yep, I couldn't see the broad side of a red barn without my glasses unless I was 20 feet away.
According to the World Health Organization 51% of world blindness (over 20 million people) is due to cataracts. As you can guess, many developing countries or places where people do not have access to surgery suffer from blindness due to cataracts. My ophthalmologist told me recently that he removed a cataract from a young man in his thirties during one of his mission trips to Mexico. Because the man was blind in the other eye, there was worry going into the surgery. He had a very good result. The man was so overwhelmed and appreciative in seeing his young children for the first time that he cried and cried with joy.
Cataract surgery is popular and is performed on over three million Americans a year (I guess I'm now in the popular crowd). It's not too complicated and very painless. The surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens. In my case I had surgery on both eyes, two weeks apart. All good and bonus - no kitchen clean up duty for a few days post surgery!
The outcome for most everyone is very good, they see 20/20 or 20/40. I'm seeing great now and I'm more than grateful. The one downside is the opposite vision issue - farsightedness or not being able to see or read up close. I also had this condition before the surgery but my glasses corrected the problem. I have a pair of inexpensive readers within reach or around my neck most of the time. I haven't purchased a fake pearl necklace chain for my readers, but Christmas is coming up and I've dropped several hints.
As for the new perspective, heck yea, I've got one, I've got as many as my eyes can see. I don't wear expensive corrective glasses for distance anymore - they minimized objects and fogged up on cold days. With the cataracts gone I'm seeing genuine plant colors, many in their fall glory. I can't wait until next spring to see what pink tulips and all shades in between truly look like. In the meantime I'll embrace the various tones, shadows and subtleties of Colorado snow and Bronco orange-colored sunsets.