How Important Is It to Take Care of Your Physical Health After 60? Part 1: The Eyes
Entering your 60s can be overwhelming when it comes to feeling that your body is falling apart. You imagine all sorts of failures and laugh and joke about them with friends.
Yet, underneath the attempt to age with good humor, there resides an underlying fear relating to personal vulnerabilities regarding any hint of poor health. To deflect these fears, it is common to develop a laundry list of complaints, real or imaginary, accompanied by a laundry list of fears.
Fear of death is ubiquitous when you accept the unknown future of health issues. Will I get cancer? Will I have diabetes? Will I have arthritis? Rheumatism? Shoulder issues? Compromised knees? How is my cholesterol? To say nothing of eye and teeth issues.
The Eye Exam
For two years, my optician told me that I ought to think about removing my cataracts.
“Why,” I asked him. “I can see fine.”
On a visit in January of this year, my optician was firm.
“Your vision is compromised, but you don’t realize it because you are used to it,” he said. “Time for cataract surgery.”
“I’ll get to it in summer. My book will be out, vacations taken, family situated. Promise.”
Four months later, I capitulated. There was no use holding hands with denial. It was April. Night driving was difficult: I saw halos around car lights, little flashing lights played on the sides of my eyes, and I recognized that I was off balance when dancing.
I had to make time for this procedure. I felt resistance trying to accomplish my scheduling tasks until one of my best friends made me promise to her that I would take care of the cataract procedure by the end of summer.
She had her cataract operation in May. I made plans to have surgery on both eyes in July. I found myself apprehensive until I had my eyes examined by my ophthalmologist.
“You wouldn’t pass an eye exam for a driver’s license,” he said with no bedside manner or sense of humor. “And your right eye is worn out. Eyes age.”
“But I can see fine,” I said to the doctor.
“You think you can see, because that’s your perception but not your reality,” he said.
I was obviously living in an alternate universe.
Don’t Listen to Other People
I was strangely calm after that diagnosis, and I plied the doctor with questions about the cataract removal procedure.
I had been given opinions by multiple people, some of whom had already undergone the eye procedure, some of whom had not. It’s human nature to hear what you want to hear and dismiss what you don’t want to hear.
I told the doctor about a friend who had paid $10,000 for both eyes.
“Did he have multiple lenses put on?” I asked.
“There are no multiple lenses. There are different kinds of lenses for each particular eye problem. Your friend chose the Cadillac lens and obviously didn’t use insurance.”
“Should I get the Cadillac lens?” I asked. “I want to see the best that I can.”
“You will see perfectly well with the lenses I am prescribing,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter if you used the Cadillac lenses your friend preferred.”
We got into the cost for the both eyes – another aspect from my conversations with other people. If your friend quotes a price to you, it most likely will be incorrect.
Eyes, even on the same person, are different and unique. The cornea on one of my eyes had to be reshaped. It was developing a small astigmatism. That was new. The doctor told me that my right eye was not functioning.
It is best not to play the guessing game when it comes to cost until the ophthalmologist tells you what each eye costs, if anything, depending on insurance.
Most importantly, make sure you go to an ophthalmologist that takes Medicare. Do not assume every doctor does. And know what your insurance plans cover before you begin making decisions on any medical procedure.
Reduce the Fear Factor
You do not know when your health, including eye health, will affect you adversely. Some of my friends who are in their 70s have no cataract issues. Their eyes are free from cloudiness. Lucky them.
But eventually, most of you will encounter an eye issue. The most common and damaging eye condition is dry eyes. Over a period of a decade or so, dry eyes can cause eye damage.
If you can barely open your eyes in the morning, or your eyes itch during the day, or if your eyes are persistently red, please see your optician. I had dry eyes so severe, my optician put me on steroid eye drops.
I’ve told many of my friends and acquaintances about my cataract operation. Their eyes got wide with fear. They plied me with questions, and mostly, they wanted to know if it hurt.
Then they said they should make an appointment. They should take care of it. And they don’t. Because of fear. Don’t let fear dictate how you take care of your health.
For the most part, cataract surgery doesn’t hurt. You have a mild anesthesia when undergoing the procedure. And if you go to a reputable doctor, maybe recommended by someone you trust, you will notice that the clinic has invested in top of the line technology in the operation room.
When you wake up, you might be a little tired, but if you follow the instructions by the doctor and nurses – to rest and use the prescribed eye drops – you will have good results. More importantly, you will see what you haven’t seen in years.
How do you deal with your eyes? Do you put off getting them examined once a year? If you have had cataract surgery, how was your experience? Please share in the comments below.