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Better to stay semi blind or get cataract surgery but risk going completely blind?

Asked by judyprays (1290 points ) March 13th, 2009

My grandmother, who is almost 92, is completely blind in one eye and is going blind in another, but, at this point, can still see. Surgery can only fix the seeing eye – but the doctor says there is a 5% chance something will go wrong and my grandmother will then lose the little sight she has.

Personally I’d take the risk and do the surgery, but what I’m afraid of is that because doctors cause her incredible anxiety, and her health is already relatively poor – the fear and stress will be so much that it will cause other problems.

Things to consider—> She lives alone and her hearing is not great so her main form of entertainment is reading. She is a painter and an aesthete – so I imagine enhanced vision is just as appealing as blindness is terrifying.

Looking for opinions, things to consider, ways to make the decision, similar stories…

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15 Answers

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It completely depends on how she feels about it. If she is not really concerned about going blind in the other eye slowly, then it’s not worth the stress it will cause her.

However, having said that, I could only imagine, going completely blind is not what she wants, so if you look at it this way I think the only option is to go with the surgery. If she doesn’t have the surgery she will surely go blind, however the operation gives her a chance, and a very very good chance at that.

Her call really, but all in all, I would agree with you, and have the surgery.

I could change my answer very quickly though if I knew what these other problems would be. It’s all about quailty of life at the end of it all.

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Cataract surgery by the numbers is a very safe procedure. I think you should let her decide. Any surgery is more stressful with age.

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Would it make her feel somewhat more at ease to get a second and a third opinion? Any surgery at that age is risky, but I, too, know of only successes with cataracts and no failures. And does she know about the new generation of hearing aids that replicate normal hearing much more than the ones being used several years ago? The batteries are small and require good motor skills to replace them. But you did say she is a painter.

Does she have any day help? Does she have someone trained to talk to? That might assuage her anxiety. Most people at the end of their lives get sad, which is different than depression. But a small dose of an antidepressant might also help. We are trying to persuade my 94 yr old mother, who is temporarily in rehab since she broke a wrist, to try one.

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,y mom has macular degeneration and has a cateract. She was advised against the surgery by her doctor for the same reason. She still wonders if she should do it though. She is 81.

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I so understand not wanting to do surgery of any kind, but it could be that your mother could live many more years, and it sounds like if she does nothing, these years will be spent in blindness. It’s a gamble, as is most of life. And a terrifying one, since your eyesight you just never want to gamble with. But, she will be blind for sure, if she does nothing. It might just be sooner if the operation fails. If it is 95% likely that it will help, that becomes a powerful number.

I suspect that the decision she makes will reflect level of risk and choices she has made in her life until now.

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My grandmother had surgery on her eyes, for cataracts. She was I think 79. The state of PA told her she was too blind to drive (but she was legally allowed to in WV…) So she got the sugery and can now see, and drive legally.
It was gross watching her recover, but I was under the impression that it was a very safe procedure.

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@casheroo How do you mean “gross to watch her recover”? I had cataract surgery and it took one day only to recover. I wore this mask thing over my eyes for one afternoon, evening, and the next day, drove myself to the Dr. I actually had a cornea transplant at the same time.

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@chyna My grandmother needed drops or something, and her eyes seemed to ooze gunk. It wasn’t pleasent. Maybe she just had a different recovery because she’s older?

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My father (age 83) and my husband (age 66) both had cataract surgery this year.

My husband’s went beautifully. Each eye took about 15 minutes for the actual surgery. One was done in October and the other this January and they never entirely knocked him out, just used a bit of sedation. He wore a metal eye cup for one day and for three nights on the operated eye, and I had to put drops in that eye four times a day (now that was a bit of a pain) for about 10 days.

To be honest, except when he was actually wearing the eye cup you really couldn’t tell he had had surgery. Unless you were the doctor, of course, and he used a magnifying thingamabob to see it. The plants the surgeon gave us after each operation are even still doing well.

My dad has had a bit more trouble in large part because the surgeon screwed up and promptly retired right after the surgery, and because he has Fuch’s Dystrophy and Sjogren’s Syndrome both, which can make things a bit tricky. He can, however, still see but not well enough to drive (although oddly enough when he went to turn in his driver’s license the state promptly renewed it instead) After his surgery he, too, wore an eye patch for a day or two, and used eye drops, but his eyes looked perfectly normal to us lay people.

I think you need to consider the points gailcalled brought up as to whether she has live in help or not and someone who is trained to talk to her about it. In addition, you may need to see how she feels about audio books. I find them a very useful addition to reading books, especially when I am cleaning the house or otherwise engaged in an activity that requires little intellectual input but that ties up my hands. However, I don’t consider them a replacement for the experience of absorbing the type and feeling the pages as I turn them.

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@casheroo – the eye drops sound perfectly normal but the “oozing gunk” part doesn’t. Could she have gotten an infection?

And the drops are no big deal. I set my phone to remind me when to do them for my husband, and my dad simply remembered when to do his.

Compared to my having to “pack the wound” and change the dressings after my husband’s heart surgery, the eye drops are simply a “drop” in the bucket (couldn’t resist)

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From what you describe, if you do nothing she will also go blind. I would have the surgery done OR, IF I COULD, wait for that eye to actually go blind and then have the surgery.

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I’d go for the surgery, myself. This “ooze” talk complimented my snack of pretzels and dip quite grotesquely.

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I had this done about a month ago, left on Monday, right on Tuesday, wore sunglasses for two days.

now I have 20/20 in the right, 20/15 in the left.

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That’s a tough one for me because my mother lost her sight in one eye after cataract surgery, and my eyes are very important to me. However, for the most part this surgery is extremely safe, and it has improved the quality of life for scads of people.

I think that in the end, though, I would think positive and opt for the surgery.

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Personally I would go for it.

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