What Is the Deal with Those Weird Cataract Glasses?

What’s up with people wearing those big sunglasses after cataract surgery?

The main reason is for protection - physical protection to assure nothing hits the eye immediately after surgery, and protection from sunlight and other bright lights.

We want to protect the eye from getting hit physically because there is a small incision in the eyeball through which the surgeon has removed the cataract and inserted a new clear lens. In most modern cataract surgeries that incision is very small - about one-tenth of an inch in most cases. The vast majority of surgeons do not stitch the incision closed at the end of surgery. The incision is made with a bevel or flap so that the internal eye pressure pushes the incision closed.

The incision does have some risk of opening, especially if you were to provide direct pressure on the eyeball. Therefore, immediately after surgery we want you to be careful and make sure that you or any outside force doesn’t put direct pressure on the eye. The sunglasses help make sure that doesn’t happen while you are outside immediately after surgery. It’s the same reason that most surgeons ask you to wear a protective plastic shield over the eye at night while you are sleeping for the first week so that you don’t inadvertently rub the eye or smash it into your pillow.

The other advantage of wearing the sunglasses is to protect your eye from bright light, especially in the first day or two when your pupil may still be fairly dilated from all the dilating drops we used prior to surgery. Even after the dilation wears off, the light still seems much brighter than before your surgery. The cataracts act like internal sunglasses. The lens gets more and more opaque as the cataract worsens and so it lets less and less light into the eye. Your eye gets used to those decreased light levels and when you have cataract surgery the eye instantly goes from having all the lights dimmed by the cataract to 100% of the light getting through the new clear lens implant. That takes some getting used to and the sunglasses help you adapt early on. Think of this as if you were in a dark cave for a long period of time and then were thrust out into the bright sunlight. It would be pretty uncomfortable. The sunglasses help with that adjustment.

So why do people keep wearing those sunglasses long after their surgery? Mostly because some people really like them. They not only provide sun protection straight on, they also give you protection along the top and sides of the frame, reducing the light that can enter around the frame

If you have a spouse who wants to keep wearing those...let’s call them “inexpensive” and “less than fashionable”...sunglasses, but you’d like them to look better, there is a solution. There are sunglasses called Fitovers that go over top of your regular glasses and still provide top and side protection from the sun but look much better than the “free” ones you got for cataract surgery.

Bilberry & Macular Degeneration

Is bilberry a wonder supplement for your macular degeneration?

The jury is still out on that question. There is some supportive experimental data in animal models but no well-done human studies that show significant benefit.

What you shouldn’t do is pass up taking the AREDS 2 nutritional supplement formula, which is clinically proven to reduce the risk of severe visual loss that can happen with macular degeneration. Almost all the data supporting the POSSIBLE benefits of bilberry in visual conditions is related to NON-HUMANS. Stick with the AREDS 2 formula that has excellent clinical evidence.

So, what is bilberry and why do some people use it?

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), a low-growing shrub that produces a blue-colored berry, is native to Northern Europe and grows in North America and Asia. It is naturally rich in anthocyanins, which have anti-oxidant properties.

It is said that during World War II, British pilots in the Royal Air Force ate bilberry jam, hoping to improve their night vision. No one is exactly sure where the impetus to do this came from, but it is believed that this story is what lead to some widespread claims that bilberry was good for your eyes.

A study by JH Kramer,  Anthocyanosides of Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry) for Night Vision - A Systematic Review of Placebo-Controlled Trials, reviewed most of the literature pertaining to the claim that bilberry improves night vision. He found that the four trials, which were all rigorous randomized controlled trials (RCTs), showed no correlation with bilberry extract and improved night vision. A fifth RCT and seven non-randomized controlled trials reported positive effects on outcome measures relevant to night vision, but these studies had less-rigorous methodology.

Healthy subjects with normal or above-average eyesight were tested in 11 of the 12 trials. The hypothesis that V. myrtillus improves normal night vision is not supported by evidence from rigorous clinical studies. There is a complete absence of rigorous research into the effects of the extract on subjects suffering impaired night vision due to pathological eye conditions.

Even though there is no solid evidence in human studies that bilberry produces any positive visual effects on night vision there is some experimental evidence that implies it might be useful in some ocular conditions whose mode of action is oxidative stress. There are recent epidemiologic, molecular and genetic studies that show a major role of oxidative stress in age-related macular degeneration.

There have been some studies showing oxidative protective effects of bilberry in non-human models. 

In Protective Effects of Bilberry and Lingonberry Extracts Against Blue-light Emitting Diode Light-induced Retinal Photoreceptor Cell Damage in Vitro, Ogawa et al showed that cultured mouse cells that had bilberry extract added before subjection to high-energy short-wavelength light survived better than those that hadn't received the extract. 

In Retinoprotective Effects of Bilberry Anthocyanins via Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Anti-Apoptotic Mechanisms in a Visible Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration Model in Pigmented Rabbits, Wang et al found similarly improved survival of pigmented rabbit retinal cells when exposed to bilberry abstract prior to high-intensity light.

But bilberry is not without potential side effects.

Bilberry possesses anti-platelet activity and it might interact with NSAIDs, particularly aspirin. Excessive drinking of bilberry juice might cause diarrhea. One study of 2,295 people given bilberry extract found a 4% incidence of side effects or adverse events. Further, bilberry side effects may include mild digestive distress, skin rashes and drowsiness. Chronic uses of the bilberry leaf may lead to serious side effects. High doses of bilberry leaf can be poisonous.

Bilberry has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration for safety, effectiveness, or purity.

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Our doctors and staff are committed to providing thorough care with personal attention. At Eye Doctors of Madison, you will find the compassionate care of a small-town doctors' office with the knowledge of a big-city institution. It is our mission to not only treat each patient uniquely but also like family.

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