How Do Photographers Deal with the Results of Cataract Surgery?

September 18th, 2017

Larry in Virginia asks:

I have a question about vision problems and photography. I had cataract surgery two years ago after having been nearsighted and wearing glasses daily for most of my life. I never had a problem with my vision in my photography with glasses.

As people may or may not know, basic cataract surgery replaces your eyes’ lenses which become cloudy and yellow with brand new clear lenses. Cataract surgery also corrects vision, but only distance or reading and not both at the same time. You have to choose one type of correction or the other with the lenses you select. Then you may need or want to get new glasses for the other. As a photographer, I have to constantly shift from looking in the distance to looking closely at my camera controls. If I’m working on the computer, that’s a third type of distance which is a middle distance. To make a long story short, I find myself constantly taking my glasses off and putting them back on again in order to see what I’m looking at whether far away, middle distance or close-up. And I use progressive lenses which are supposed to handle that. But in my case, it really doesn’t. Are there other photographers out there who have had cataract surgery and can share how they’ve been dealing with their surgery results?

It just so happens that I have experience in this area. In 2003 I had cataract surgery in both eyes and I didn’t experience that much difference other than the clearing of my vision. I don’t use glasses except for night driving.

I remember the discussion about this subject with my eye surgeon. My eye surgeon explained to me that my eyes have a relatively rare configuration called natural monovision where one eye is specialized for close-up vision and the other eye specialized for distance vision. Both eyes work together so it feels like I can see both near and far in both eyes. The surgeon said that people who don’t have natural monovision have to make the decision like you made, about whether you want your cataract lenses to be made for seeing distance or closeup and then use glasses to complement the implanted lenses.

My eye surgeon also said they have tried implanting monovision lenses (one for near and one for far) for people who don’t have natural monovision but they found that the visual part of the brain sometimes has problems readapting to the change so for people like you dealing with glasses is a part of cataract surgery.

My sister-in-law told me that optometrists do make monovision contact lenses (one contact focuses close and one focuses far) because they aren’t permanent like cataract lenses are. So it may be worthwhile to ask your optometrist to make you monovision contacts. If you can get used to them they may eliminate the need for glasses. Contacts are much more expensive but it may be worth it.

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5 Responses to “How Do Photographers Deal with the Results of Cataract Surgery?”

  • Cataract Surgery correct my need to wear glasses for distance. I wear reading glasses low enough to look over them and see distances clearly. I leave them on taking images. This surgery corrected viewing colors. The sky is blue and clear.

  • I haven’t had the surgery, but have been told that I will inevitably require it. I am, by default, long-sighted, and have worn reading glasses for a long time. In the past 5 years or so, my long distance vision has deteriorated, so now I wear multi-focal glasses (progressive lenses?). I also struggle with computer use, as this is middle range. So I have a pair of “computer” glasses that I keep at my desk for computer work. And then there is sunglasses… Recently got contact lenses, & as Larry has suggested above – one is for long distance, one is for close up. I haven’t tried using them for working yet as I’m anxious I’ll have problems, and have to take them out during a shoot! But I wear them for the day, driving and generally everything else. It’s definitely odd – my brain does seem to work it out though. I find the close up vision easy, the distance vision a little more difficult. My optometrist let me buy just 3 months of daily contact lenses – about AUS$80. Worth a try for you I think, but remember to ensure the close up lens is for the correct eye for your camera’s viewfinder.

  • I have had cataract surgery in both eyes though not at the same time. After consultation with my surgeon I chose to have one lens focus at middle distance for working on the computer or having face-to-face conversations (remember those days before texting?) and the other lens at a distance for driving. Perhaps having had them installed months apart I was able to adapt as I have had no problems. After a few years I did require a correction in one eye for which I use a contact lens. The lens lasts a month and costs about $50 a year.

  • My family has been i optical business for over 100 years, i was an optician for 0ver 30 years
    the key is a good eye exam and be sure to get Varilux progressive lenses and that they are fitted properly

    find a good optometrist in private practice, not a chain store

  • Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. I just had a laser treatment for capsular haze in my right eye, which has been a problem eye since my surgery. This is a common condition after cataract surgery and puts a cloud over your vision. A membrane forms over the new lenses in your eye and has to be zapped away. It was extremely effective. I can now see in the distance with no glasses and blue sky is really blue. I’m working on what type of progressive glasses to get to help with middle distance and reading. I did find Foster Grant now makes a $35 pair of progressive reading glasses that may work for some but if your two eyes are as different as mine, a prescription is probably called for. Contacts don’t work for me. I can’t tolerate them. But have to say after two years struggling post-surgery, and after the laser treatment, my vision is better than ever distance wise, and I’m more confident about finding a solution to the the middle and near distances.

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