Cataract Surgery

One of life’s interesting events is to experience post cataract surgery clarity and colours. Over the past number of years my wife and I have had some discussions about the colour of clothing, paint, and a host of other everyday items. Suffice to say that we have had some pretty significant differences of opinion about the colours that each of us was seeing in the world around us. This was especially true of pastel colours.

May 17 2024 Update

We’d like to thank all of the readers who have been reaching out and expressing their best wishes regarding my cataract surgeries. My second surgery (i.e. my right eye) was done on May 8th. The surgery went very well. I had a follow up meeting with my eye surgeon on May 15, during which my doctor told me that everything was healing very well. All of the physical restrictions that had been in place were lifted. I still have about 3 weeks of eye drops to complete, but other than that I’m returning to ‘normal’.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Images have been added to serve as visual breaks.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 59mm, efov 160mm, f/5.6, 1/25, ISO-3200, 16mm Deluxe Vello Extension Tube

I had not fully comprehended the degree to which the development of cataracts can affect our colour vision.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-2000

Since I’m currently half way through my cataract surgery, I can toggle back and forth between each eye and observe the differences with how I’m currently seeing things in my environment.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 1200 mm, efov 2400 mm, f/13, 1/1600, ISO-1250, full frame capture, subject distance 7.6 metres

For me, those visual differences are quite profound. It is somewhat like changing the white balance on a RAW file.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/6.3, 1/5, ISO-1100

When I look through only my left eye, which was operated on about a month ago… everything is crisp and detailed, with bright whites and vibrant colours.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-1400

When viewing the exact same item or scene with my soon-to-be-operated-on my right eye… everything has a very noticeable yellowish/beige cast. Sharpness and colours are muted and dull.

Panasonic DMC-FZ28, @ 55 mm, efov 310 mm, f/3.7, 1/80, ISO125

Tomorrow afternoon I’m scheduled to have the cataract in my right eye removed, and a new lens implanted in that eye. This is a very common procedure that is totally painless. The operation in my left eye took about 10-15 minutes of surgical time, and was done on an out patient basis. I’m not 100% sure if the YouTube animation video illustrates exactly how my surgery was done… but it is likely very close to my experience.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-1600

My optometrist had been monitoring the condition of my left eye for about 6 years as my cataract slowly worsened. During that time my right eye also began to develop a cataract… although it didn’t progress as quickly… or was as bad… as the one in my left eye.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 with 1.4X teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-1600, 100% crop

In August last year it was determined that the cataract in my left eye had progressed to the point where surgery was necessary. I was referred to a regional eye surgery clinic, and the process began.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 with 1.4X teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/8, 1/640, ISO-800, 100% crop

I certainly welcomed the opportunity to have the cataract surgery done. Everyone that I knew who had this operation were pleased with their outcomes. Of course all surgery comes with some element of risk. Cataract surgery has a very high probability of success.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 40-150 mm f/2.8 with 1.4X teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-3200, 100% crop

Once I have my right eye operated on tomorrow I will lose the opportunity to toggle back and forth to compare the differing colours that I have been experiencing for the past few weeks. The new, brighter colours and clarity will soon become my ‘new normal’.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, -1 step, 1/80, ISO-1600

Our vision is one of the greatest gifts that we have. Regular eye exams, wearing protective eye gear when necessary, taking precautions with bright sunlight, and having a good diet with a lot of leafy greens, all help us maintain our vision.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 204mm, efov 552mm, f/5.6, 1/40, ISO-3200

If you have been diagnosed with cataracts that are impairing your vision it is important to have this condition addressed surgically. Allowing it to progress unchecked can lead to permanent blindness.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-1250

Cataract surgery improves clarity, colour, perception and brightness… and can help with night vision. Improved vision can also help reduce the risk of car crashes. Some research published on the National Library of Medicine website found cataract surgery resulted in a 9% reduction in serious traffic crashes.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-3200

On a less serious note, I have been wondering how things may change with how I process my images in post processing once the cataract in my right eye has been removed. Seeing everything for the past 6 years or more through a yellowish/beige haze likely affected some of my decisions in post. I guess I’ll find out the answer to that soon enough…

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld with the camera equipment and technology noted in the EXIF data. All images were created from RAW files or out-of-camera jpegs using my standard process in post. This is the 1,383 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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30 thoughts on “Cataract Surgery”

  1. I had cataract surgery in both eyes in 2016 and was amazed at how bright things were afterwards. Unlike many people I chose distance lenses for the replacements. Ever since my glasses saved one of my eyes from a branch that wound up penetrating my cheek I always wear safety glasses including the trifocals I use for reading and computer work. Many people develop scar tissue after cataract surgery which can impinge on vision. That scar tissue can be removed easily by a laser procedure; a friend of mine didn’t have the laser procedure and is gradually losing the benefit of the initial surgery.

    1. Hi Woody,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with cataract surgery. I had my second eye done yesterday afternoon. Vision in that eye is expectedly blurry today, but I imagine that in another day or two it should clear up. I chose replacement lenses that provide me with both distance and intermediate vision. I’ll need to use glasses for close up reading but other than that I should be good to go.

      Tom

  2. I’m impressed by the huge response to this article. It obviously strikes a chord with many people. I’m looking forward to any updates you may choose to make on this topic. Best of luck with your new found optical vision.

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      The surgery on my right eye went well this afternoon. I met with the surgeon late day so he could take a good look at the initial surgery… which he judged as excellent. So, my next appointment with him is next week.

      Tom

    2. Interesting article. My Doc says I have just the beginning of a cataract but no need at the moment. I’m near sighted and I wonder whether I would choose to stay that way or choose to be able to see at a distance with out glasses and need readers. Interesting choice. I understand they even have bifocal implants. Thanks for the article.

      1. Hi Steve,

        I imagine that the lens options that are available vary by country/eye clinic.

        I chose the ‘monofocal plus’ option that provides me with both distance and intermediate vision. Both of my eyes have this lens. My left eye has an astigmatism which has been corrected with a special version of my distance/intermediate vision choice. I have no problem reading a computer screen or details on the dash of my car. While I can read a standard 8.5 x 11 printed sheet with 10 to 12 pt. type I do not have the ability to read very small print on packages and bottles. So, I will need reading glasses for those situations. Extended reading of a printed book would also require reading glasses.

        I did have the option for ‘extended’ and ‘full range’ lenses. The ‘full range’ option can result in some glare and halos around lights for some people, and this option is not recommended for people with certain medical conditions. The ‘extended’ option would have given me more reading ability, but at the trade-off of distance viewing that would not have been quite as sharp. So, for my vision priorities having distance and intermediate viewing was the best choice.

        Tom

  3. Good luck, Thomas!

    I had my 65 year-old eyes done in January and everything you have written is spot on. I have had to reprocess a myriad of images from the past three years or so because of the change to my eyesight – previously I was progressively over-saturating them the past five years or so. It’s a huge difference, to everything – including night vision and driving. Enjoy the experience, I’m a different fella for doing it. Hope I escape the 5-year post op hiatus, but I’m sure that will be easy enough to do if needs be.

  4. This is such a good subject to highlight. I especially like your white balance analogy.
    I am slightly envious as I know it will be my turn soon, varifocal glasses lenses are OK but I would prefer not to wear glasses for photography. Is the EVF easier to see now?
    My wife has just had both her eyes done in one go. 5 days in she is recovering well although still slightly blurry.
    Don’t worry I’m driving and cooking!

    1. Hi Jerry,

      I can’t comment on what it is like to look through the EVF after cataract surgery as I use my right eye for EVF viewing… and that eye is being operated on later today. I’ll be under some physical restrictions for the first week or two… which includes not using my cameras for at least the first week.

      In Ontario our public health plan (OHIP) pays for actual surgery and ‘standard’ lens replacements. There are lens options available which provide corrections for astigmatism and some vision enhancements, but the patient needs to pay for the upgraded lenses. There is also a patient charge for laser eye measurements rather than the standard measurement technology. Under the OHIP plan each eye is done separately, usually 4 weeks apart.

      Tom

  5. Congratulations on the good outcome. Yes, it reveals how much a yellowing cataract impacts photography.
    A few years post-surgery — despite what some surgeons claim — almost 50% of patients experience a renewed clouding coming from the back part of the capsule where the replacement lens was inserted. It reacts to the artificial lens and begins opacifying. A quick in-office laser procedure — a posterior capsulotomy — burns away the cloudy tissue re-establishing visual clarity. See: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/treatments/what-is-posterior-capsulotomy
    The hundreds (thousands) of photos your blog followers enjoy came about from your exceptional vision: physical and aesthetic.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for sharing the additional information. Hopefully I’ll be one of the 50% who don’t need the additional surgery… but it will be what it will be.

      We appreciate your supportive comment πŸ™‚

      Tom

    2. Hi Elizabeth,

      I did some additional research and found some interesting information.

      The largest study about posterior capsulotomy (PC) was a UK study of 500,872 cataract surgeries. Overall 12.3% of those initial surgeries did require posterior capsulotomy surgeries later. The study tracked subsequent PA surgeries at 6 month (2.3%), 1 year (4.4%), 3 year (19.7%), 5 year 34%) and 9 year (46.9%) incident rates.

      I also found some information on the risk factors of needing posterior capsulotomy surgery.
      These included:
      – people who had ocular inflammation within 24 hours after cataract surgery are at higher risk
      – folks less than 60 years old at the time of their cataract surgery are at higher risk, children who have had cataract surgery are especially high risk at 100% probability
      – people with diabetes had a higher risk of needing PC within 12 months of their cataract surgery. There was no increase in the long term
      – people with eye conditions like glaucoma, dry-eye and uveitis have a higher risk of needing PC in the future

      For folks that do require posterior capsulotomy surgery the good news is that it usually only needs to be done once.

      Tom

  6. Only a photographer would link it to white balance and a RAW file …
    I have slightly blurry vision in the left eye and am going to need upgrade to my glasses.
    Cheers!

  7. All the best with your second surgery. I am sure you will love the new brighter world.
    Carol

    1. Thanks Carol,

      I’m already enjoying my improved vision with only one eye done… no doubt it will be that much better with both eyes completed. Starting tomorrow it will be the first time in 7 decades that I haven’t had to wear glasses to see at a distance. I’ll likely need some ‘cheaters’ to read close up.

      Tom

  8. All the best, Thomas, for your eye 02 cataract surgery.
    Soon, you’ll have a set of brand-new eyes!
    Daniel

  9. Totally agree with your comments. However, I had an unfortunate issue and had to get a second lens added on top of the first lens in my right eye. This was further complicated as the first lens was coloured enhanced even though the surgeon was advised NOT to use a coloured lens. My left eye was completed by another surgeon. So I have slightly different colour balance in each eye. My brain has fixed up the normal balance so I see OK but I do have a problem when taking a shot.

    1. Hi Brian,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s unfortunate that you had some complications… but at least your brain was able to compensate.

      Right now I’m using a pair of glasses with the left lens removed… so I’m seeing with my recently operated left eye and my right eye focusing through the glasses. I have a mix of colours and the strange thing is that when I look at an item using only my right eye… the subject is noticeably smaller than when I only use my left eye. Like you, my brain has been able to somehow compensate and combine the two images of different sizes and colours.

      Tom

  10. Getting my cataracts done next month.
    Nice to see your Nikon 1 system still showcased. I still use mine. I find I barely use my LUMIX system: a 1” sensor is only one step down from M43.
    Again, love your site!

    1. Hi Ray,

      Our best wishes for a great outcome with your pending surgery!

      We still have lots of Nikon 1 files in our archives and I enjoy using them in current articles. I’m glad you are enjoying the website.

      Tom

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