Man sitting at computer looking at eye image

Losing a Line on the Chart: Cataracts and AMD

“You have cataracts” wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but this was said to me by my retinal specialist quite a few years ago. I already had age-related macular degeneration (AMD), so hearing about cataracts didn’t phase me too much. I had bigger things to worry about with my AMD.

At my visit each year, my retinal specialist would say “Are those cataracts worrying you?” I would say “No,” and we would leave it at that. I’m not sure how I was actually supposed to know if they were worrying me.

My recent doctor's visit

It went on like this for a number of years until my last visit. I had trouble reading the particular line that was shown to me on the eye chart. I even cheated and turned my head a bit, and squinted and guessed. It didn’t help.

The technician left it at that one line. I didn’t get a chance at the next lineup, whatever that was. I knew this wasn’t good, and thought perhaps my macular degeneration was causing this problem.

The verdict

When I was called into the specialist’s room she said “You’ve lost a line on the chart.” I didn’t point out to her that perhaps I could have found the next one up. She didn’t seem in the mood for jokes.

I thought “Here we go, my AMD is worse.” I was quite surprised when she said, “We’ll have to organize to remove those cataracts. I’d like to do it in the next 12 months.”

My previous experience with cataracts

I refuse to be upset about this, because I know that many people have this procedure done. I even took my mother to have her cataracts removed in her 80s, so I will not complain. But I know that her doctor didn’t want to do it until absolutely necessary.

He thought it could make her dry macular degeneration worse. I can’t get his words out of my head. When she had the operation done, she was already legally blind, and it didn’t seem to make much difference to her sight one way or the other.

So I asked my specialist about this potential issue, and she said that more recent and current evidence tended to show no problems for people with dry macular degeneration when they had cataracts removed. She said she had removed cataracts from many of her patients with no problems.

The plan of action

Before I could gather my thoughts, she went through the 4 types of lenses that were available and why some weren’t suitable for a person with macular degeneration. I think I was still in shock, because I broke my own rule of writing everything down. She was going much too fast, anyway. Instead, I thought, “I’ve got some research to do.”

The specialist said that when I decided to go ahead, I should let the technician know at the beginning of my next appointment and he would “measure me up.” That’s all she told me, apart from saying that if I left it too long the cataracts would be much harder to remove.

Now to research

So now I have research to do, and decisions to make. In reality, though, there is no alternative for me other than to have the cataracts removed. It has to be done, so there is not much point worrying about my AMD.

I should trust the current studies. But I’ll have a little look at them myself just to be sure!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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