Good vision a lifelong benefit thanks to advancements in eye care
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “all we have to fear is fear itself.” I learned that is a true statement whether we are talking about national issues or small, personal fears. Last week I conquered one of my fears and had the first of two cataract surgeries. I am happy to say it went well, and now I’m waiting to have the procedure performed on the other eye.
It was something I should have done a couple years ago, yet a small, gnawing fear kept me finding excuses. I had a lot friends tell me it was a “piece of cake,” and they were right. Yet I found reasons not to do it. Finally, I decided that if I had come through a stroke, learning to walk and write again, surely I could do something that everyone said was minor.
Actually the hardest part after I made the appointment was the morning of the surgery. There was no eating or drinking my morning coffee. Anyone who knows me is aware that I wake up ravenously hungry and I’m at the table almost immediately. With great difficulty, I survived skipping breakfast. The surgery was routine and in a couple of hours, wearing a “pirate” patch, I was on my way home, via a fast-food restaurant.
By late afternoon, the patch was gone and the fuzzy vision was going away. Other than a regular series of eye-drops and wearing dark glasses when I go outside, life was back to normal. Everything looks brighter and I’m actually looking forward to having the left eye done. Well, I mean the results of the surgery, not missing my normal breakfast.
I have worn glasses to see at a distance since I was a senior in high school. At that time, I only used them when I was driving or covering a sporting event. As is normal, time took its toll and I started wearing glasses full time about 20 years ago. I never considered contact lenses since wearing glasses never really bothered me.
What is amazing to me is how eye care has changed. Not too many years ago, cataract surgery was a major event. People were hospitalized for a couple of weeks. Now it is outpatient surgery and commonplace.
I was surprised that eyeglasses have a very long and interesting history. The first record was in the 13th century when traveling missionaries in Mongolia wrote that some of the residents were wearing pieces of convex quartz in frames made from turtle shells. The monks soon learned that the convex quartz improved their vision. By the 1300s, Venice glassmakers began exporting lenses that could aid in vision. Over the years the technology improved and so did the quality of life for those with vision problems.
One interesting fact was that the evil Roman emperor Nero held a jewel to one eye to help him see the action on the Coliseum floor. The bifocal concept was one of the many inventions of Benjamin Franklin, who was plagued with vision problems. I also found that Leonardo da Vinci conceived the concept of a contact lens but was unable to perfect it. The contact lens did not gain popularity until the 1950s and 1960s.
Throughout the centuries, there have been vast improvements in eye care. The last figures I found stated that one in every two Americans had some vision problems. Now, thanks to modern medicine, with everything from better glasses, contact lens and surgery, it is possible for persons to enjoy reasonably good vision for their entire lives. Certainly that is important because vision is basic to a high quality of life, and I’m glad to live in a world where that is a lifelong possibility.