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The Hyperope
Written May 1, 2015


My eyeballs are elongated, sort of like tiny footballs.  As a result, I’ve been myopic all my life.  I had to wear eyeglasses to see distant objects clearly. 

Eleven years ago in an article called The Myope, I described my nearsightedness.  Its consequences were not entirely bad.  Myopia kept me on the sidelines for sports, but it also kept me out of war.  Also, the refractive error allowed me to examine objects at very close distances.

Recently, however, I’ve seen the light.  I’ve converted to hyperopianism.

As you may not know, hyperopia is the medical term for farsightedness, where one can see objects at a distance more clearly than those near at hand.  That’s the opposite of nearsightedness.  Why did I choose to change my outlook on the world at this late date?  Well, it wasn’t really my choice.

In 2009 my optometrist told me I was developing a cataract in my right eye.  The lens was becoming rather brown.  Other types of cataract will turn the lens milky and cause problems with the glare of oncoming headlights, but I never noticed that.  I didn’t notice much of anything, as a matter of fact.

By 2013 I had growing cataracts in both eyes, and I had started to notice.  They were causing me to become more nearsighted.  My prescription increased about half a diopter per year and eventually exceeded -10.00.  Even with glasses, I no longer could read the menu board at McDonald’s.  The doctor recommended surgery.  I deferred that decision, but by the fall of 2014 it became apparent that I had to proceed.  I waited until the high school football telecast season was over and I would have some free time.

When my grandmother had her cataracts removed half a century ago, it was a fairly major undertaking, but nowadays cataract surgery is a simple outpatient procedure and nothing to be feared.  It’s no longer necessary to wait until the cataract is hard and “ripe” and the patient is almost blind.  With the patient sedated, the discolored natural lens is broken up, sucked out of its capsule, and replaced with an artificial lens.

For me, the tiny new lens has an overall diameter of 13 mm and an optic diameter of 6 mm.  And it has a 9-diopter optical correction to compensate for my misshapen eyeballs, thus making it possible to see distant objects without using eyeglasses!

The surgery itself takes only about ten minutes.  However, the preparation requires several weeks.  First my optometrist made an appointment for me to be examined at SightLine Ophthalmic Associates in Wexford, PA.  They in turn set up two appointments for me at The Surgery Center at Cranberry:  in February for the left eye and in April for the right.  Both SightLine and The Surgery Center are in the northwest suburbs of Pittsburgh, about 30 miles from my apartment.  Because the surgery was going to require medication, I had to arrange for neighbors to drive me.

But first there were some other preliminaries.  The anesthesiologist wasn’t going to render me unconscious, only mildly sedate me, but they still wanted to make sure that I could handle the sedation safely.  So I had to get an EKG and go to my doctor for a physical exam, which resulted in an additional prescription for controlling my blood pressure.  Then, three days before each surgery, I had to start putting drops in my eye.  (This routine would continue for more than a month.  Not being skilled with eyedroppers, I practiced beforehand with some Visine.)  On the day of surgery, I couldn’t eat or drink anything.  I couldn't wear aftershave nor a watch nor an undershirt.

My surgeon was Dr. Valliammai Muthappan, born in nearby Murrysville and educated at Shady Side Academy and Northwestern University.  Dr. Valli visited India in March, which necessitated a longer-than-usual-gap between my two procedures.

I was also examined by two other doctors, Christopher Carver and Louis Phillips, whom I’ve added to the background of this SightLine photo.  Rather remarkably, these were the only men I encountered at either facility.  The rest of the staff was entirely female.

Immediately after the surgery, even with a protective plastic shield over my eye, I could tell that my vision was dramatically sharper.  The bigger surprise came when I got back to my apartment.  My living room was much brighter than I remembered.  The computer monitor and the TV screen were not only brighter but bluer.  Apparently the gradual growth of the brown cataract had not only affected focus but also brightness and tint, like wearing amber sunglasses.  I hadn’t realized this was happening.  Over the previous winter, without knowing why, I had felt the need to replace my living room’s LED and CFL light bulbs with stronger ones, increasing their total to the equivalent of 360 watts incandescent.  Now, post-surgery, I was able to reduce that to 240 watts and readjust my computer and TV displays.

Unfortunately, the new artificial lens does not change shape like a natural lens to focus on near and far objects.  In photographic terms, its focus is set at infinity.  That leaves me farsighted, and nearby objects are fuzzy.  So my optometrist has outfitted me with a new set of “progressive” eyeglasses.  These are similar to the eyeglasses I used to wear to correct myopia, but the new ones are much thinner.  The top part is essentially clear.  It lets me see distant objects almost as well as with no glasses at all (but with some distortion on the sides and a slight fogginess).  The bottom part brings nearby objects into focus, with a smooth progression from top to bottom (rather than the abrupt change of old-fashioned bifocals).  Using the lowest part, I can focus on objects only a foot away.

Wearing these glasses is my default for everyday living.  But they’re sometimes less than ideal.  For example, in the TV control room at work I’m often required to concentrate on monitors that are at or above eye level, but only the bottom quarter of my eyeglasses allow me to see them sharply — unless I tilt my head back to an extreme angle.

In such circumstances, I swap out my progressives for a pair of “reading glasses” that provide a consistent closeup focus from top to bottom.  Of course, the more distant monitors in the front of the room are no longer sharp, but I don’t usually need to refer to them, and if I do I can look over the top of my readers.

This sort of adaptation to circumstances is nothing new.  I remember when I was growing up and taking piano lessons from Margaret Weller.  She would remove her bifocals, set them on the music rack, and don reading glasses so she could see the entire printed page at once.

I’ve been experimenting with reading glasses of different powers and measuring the approximate best distance for each.


Closest Focus

Viewing Objects






Monitors at work



Computer screen at home



Whole newspaper page



Fine print

Before the cataract surgery, my naked left eye focused at only 3¼”, but to see that kind of detail nowadays I need a magnifying glass.  I keep one handy.

As you can tell, I’m still getting used to my new eyes and to swapping from one set of spectacles to another.  But I greatly enjoy being able to go shopping and see what’s on all the shelves.



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