Robert G. Alexander, MD

Eye Notes

Too Young To Have Cataracts?

By Bob Hawking, Chelmsford, MA

Cataract SurgeryDiagnosis: Cataracts! I was 47. Married, father of two pre-teens, and a professional. Why me? Why so young? After all, only old people get cataracts, right? Wrong. Middle-aged people have always developed cataracts, but with today’s diagnostics and the ease of surgery, more men and women are having cataract surgery done sooner in one or both eyes.

The good news for me, according to Dr. Robert Alexander, was that my cataracts were tiny; the bad news was that they were dead center in my eyes and, if they started to grow, they would significantly interfere with my vision. For most people, however, cataracts begin on the periphery and take a long time to mature to the point where they seriously obstruct vision.

I asked how soon I would need to have the surgery. He said it would depend on how fast they were growing and that I would tell him when it was time because my vision would be blurry or aggravated by glare.

It took ten years before the cataracts began to grow, and then they grew quickly. Night driving became painful from the glare of headlights, both oncoming and from the rear-view mirrors. After reading and deliberating, I agreed to surgery on both eyes.

So on two Mondays in June and July (both eyes are never done on the same day) I reported to the North Shore Cataract and Laser Center where Dr. Alexander performs virtually all his outpatient surgery. This fine facility occupies the third floor of an office building on Montvale Ave. The staff are remarkably competent professionals and very patient friendly.

Now age 57, I was the youngest patient in the waiting room. But I watched in admiration as patients were greeted and calmly escorted in and out of surgery. Moreover the spouses and adult children who were left behind in the waiting room talked to each other, total strangers, but united by a common bond.

My own two surgeries were flawless. I felt no pain or discomfort. I was sedated, but fully conscious during the surgery, even exchanging one-liners with Dr. Bob. The actual surgery takes about 20 minutes, but you arrive an hour early and remain an hour afterwards to be observed.

If you have worn eye glasses or contacts all your life, the surprise benefit of cataract surgery is that you not only get rid of the cataract, but you receive a totally new lens, an intraocular lens implant. For me it meant that I no longer needed prescription eyeglasses for distance. I now wake up in bed and see the clock across the room or look outside and see snowflakes falling.

My Wife Had Cataracts Too

Last year my wife’s eyeglass prescription kept changing. She was only 50. The cause turned out to be cataracts. Based on my successful experience, she elected to have her surgery immediately with Dr. Alexander. We are both high school teachers. We can again see the students in the back of our classrooms and across the gym. We aren’t afraid to drive at night. And we buy our reading glasses and sunglasses from a dollar store. No more contacts, no more expensive eye glasses.

Our friend’s mother had one cataract removed last year at age 97 and may have another done this year at 98. We’ve learned that one is never too young—or too old—for cataract surgery.