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Wednesday, 13 January 2016

My cataract operation 2: what I see now

This time last week I was awaiting the first of two cataract operations. On Friday, medics removed a dense cataract from my right eye. Thanks to the magic of general anaesthetic, I was blissfully unaware of the whole procedure. And since I removed the bandages on Saturday morning, I have of course been trying to work out what difference this operation has made to my vision.

For the first 48 hours or so after the op I couldn't see much of anything out of my right eye. It felt very sensitive to light and I kept it closed most of the time. When I did open it for a few moments, everything was very blurry. But I could tell that the colour of the light I could see had changed. Instead of seeing everything through tinges of yellow and brown, I could definitely see white and blue again.

A few days later I am managing to keep my eye open most of the time and I have noticed three interesting things. Firstly, and not unexpectedly, my glasses no longer work. Because the new plastic lens is not exactly the same shape as the one that was destroyed along with the cataract, I'll need to get a new prescription. Apparently this will only happen around 8 weeks after the second operation. So I reckon I'm looking at at least three months of blurry. At the moment this isn't too much of an issue. I got used to life without my glasses when I broke them in November and I do my reading with my left eye so for now if I close my right eye I can more or less see as well (or as badly) as before my operation. This will of course change after the second op.

Secondly, things start getting very weird when I use both eyes for reading. This afternoon I was reading a text (appropriately enough, Kate Tunstall's translation of Diderot's Letter on the Blind) using the kindle app on my iphone:

This photo shows some text in the kindle app on my iphone. The text is enlarged so that there are 20 words on the screen. The words are white against a black background and towards the top of the screen a small blue footnote number (52) is visible. 

When I look at this screen with my right eye closed, the text is yellow and the footnote number is invisible. But if I use both my new cataract-free eye and my old cataract-obscured one, something very odd happens: two screens appear next to each other. The one on the right is the one I was looking at before. On the one on the left, the text is dazzlingly white and the footnote number is a beautiful, incandescent blue. It is pretty disorienting to see the same thing in two different ways. But it is also a useful way of measuring the difference the cataract operations will eventually make.

When I'm not reading, I've given up using my now redundant glasses. So, thirdly, everything is a lot more blurry than it was. But it is also much more colourful. I've discovered that my favourite grey cardigan is actually a lovely shade of navy blue and that I own a set of very brightly coloured plastic bowls. I'm still getting used to my new psychedelic world. I hope this post will give my friends a sense of how it is that at the moment my vision is both better and worse than it was before.


  1. Wonderful news! I've had a Clear Lens Extraction And Replacement operation on my left eye, but it was already damaged, so my left eye requires permanent sunglasses or everything lights up like a bulb went off in my eye. And once the lens is replaced, you are no longer allowed to rub your eye, so I have to wear an eyepatch in dust or wind.

  2. Hi Hannah,
    I just came across your blog and feel like I've found a kindred spirit! I can relate to so many of your posts and in particular your interest in representations of disability. I am legally blind as well and last month went through a form of cat act surgery. I am currently healing from retinal detachment surgery but look forward to reading more of your posts soon! Thank you for writing!

  3. I'm so glad you've found the true colour of your cardigan. I've had to start a new all black wardrobe after loosing most of my colours - it's just easier. And with a bright scarf I manage not to look like I'm in mourning all the time.

  4. Hmmm... This is very interesting. I'm going in for a cataract operation next week and I'm not sure if you've eased my mind or just frightened me. I don't want to find out my cat isn't really ginger or something. I'm not looking forward to a life with no glasses, I can tell you that. Great post and good luck.

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