Featured in the September 2014 issue of Sky & Telescope Magazine
That little bombshell led to several years of trials and
tribulations, which we detailed in an article that was published in the
September, 2014 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.
In short, the surgery to replace Kathy's cloudy lenses left
her with wrinkles in the lens capsules, wrinkles that caused horrendous
diffraction spikes around every bright object she looked at. Worse,
neither her surgeon nor her optometrist would believe that the wrinkles
were the cause of the problem, apparently because the wrinkles are
very common but people don't usually complain about difraction.
The photo to the left shows the wrinkle in one of Kathy's lens
capsules. (It's that vertical streak just to the right of center, caused
by the wires called haptics that hold the artificial lens in
place [the dotted lines].) You wouldn't want a diffraction-causing
artifact like that in front of your telescope; why would you want it
between your eyepiece and your retina? Short answer: you don't.
The good news is that Kathy's eyes could be repaired, but we
went on a merry chase for nearly four years before we found the solution
to the problem. After it was all over we decided to write an article
about her experience, hoping that it would help other people facing the
same thing. We sent it to Sky & Telescope and they published
it, but that version of the article suffered from space restrictions and
heavy editing, so we offer here the original, uncut article for anyone
who might be interested.
It's in PDF format, and you can download it here:
As always when discussing medical concerns, your situation
will differ from ours. Your needs and your risk of complications may
differ. Don’t take this article as a prescription for what everyone
should do; rather use it as a guide for discussing frankly with your
surgeon what you need in your particular case. There are medical
constraints to what’s possible and safe, but there are also optical
constraints to what’s acceptable for amateur astronomy. Make sure both
you and your surgeon understand what you want, why you want it, and how
to achieve as much of it as medically possible. If you go into cataract
surgery informed, you stand a much better chance of coming out of it
We'd love to hear from people who are curious about Kathy's experience. For obvious reasons we can't provide medical advice beyond the exhortation to discuss your needs and concerns with your doctors before you have cataract surgery. But if you want to discuss any of this with us, please feel free to email us at the address on the right. (Sorry you can't click on it or copy and paste it; it's a graphic file to thwart spambots that search the internet for addresses to send junk mail to.) We have no idea how much mail this idea will generate, so we can't guarantee a response, but we'll do our best to answer everyone who writes with a genuine question or comment about Kathy's experience with cataracts.