From diagnosis to surgery, everything looked perfect

The inside story of readers who have had operations in France – and how they found the health service

23 January 2019
By Gilian Harvey

Childminder Julia Benson, 60, moved to Bellac in France in 2010 with husband Bob, who is also 60 and works in property maintenance. The pair chose their new location as it offered the chance of a better work-life balance and a healthier lifestyle.

Initial symptoms

I noticed a problem with my eyes in about December 2017 – but I just assumed I needed glasses. 

The following summer, I began to see patches in front of my eyes. I was going back to the UK for a break, so booked an eye test for when I was over there. They told me that I had the start of cataracts in my right eye and asked me to come back in six months.

Treatment

When I returned to France, I made an appointment with my GP and told him about the diagnosis.

He referred me to the hospital in Limoges. To my surprise, when I went in to book the appointment, I was offered one the following day.

At my first appointment, I saw the surgeon, who spoke perfect English. He did the eye test and confirmed that I had got cataracts – and told me that they had started to develop in both eyes. 

He asked when I’d like to have them done. It was so efficient. This was October and I booked in for my right eye in December.

The operation

I went in on the day itself. At first I had to see the secretary to check all the details and then I was asked to go to a room in the back where there were a few other people waiting.

I changed into a gown and was taken through to the theatre.

The procedure was carried out under local anaesthetic using eyedrops. They also gave me a sedative which helped to relax me. They take the lens out and fit a new one in, but I felt quite relaxed and detached from it all.

Recovery

After the operation, I was taken to another room where my blood pressure was monitored.

After about an hour, I was taken to another room where I was offered a hot drink and a snack. I had to wear a plastic eye patch, and was given drops to put into the eye.

The next day I had to go back to the doctor for a control, just to check everything was OK. Then I had a hospital appointment for two weeks later, where they checked that the lens was working and that the operation was successful.

Three weeks later, I was booked in to have the second eye treated.

Aftercare

I had to continue to wear the patch, but just at night for 10 days, and continue the eyedrops for three weeks.

However, after the operation on my right eye, I noticed my eye often looked a bit red, although there was no problem with vision. 

I booked in to see the specialist and was told that this was caused by tiny haemorrhages in the blood vessels in the eye, but it wasn’t of particular concern.  Doctors simply advised me to continue the drops for an additional three weeks, which helped greatly.

My experience with my left eye was much better – I only needed the prescribed three weeks of eyedrops and didn’t experience any adverse effects.

FACTS ON CATARACT SURGERY

Dr Marc Weiser, ophthalmologist at Clinique Jouvenet, Paris

Cataract surgery is relatively straightforward in most cases and carried out on a day-patient basis.

Patients attend the clinic about an hour before the procedure and can usually go home the same day.

The procedure itself is carried out under local anaesthesia, for which either eyedrops or injections are used. 

After about 30-40 minutes of preparation, the procedure in the operating theatre usually only takes about 10 minutes.

Afterwards, a protective shell is placed on the operated eye until the day after the operation. It will then be replaced by a pair of glasses, whose job is to protect the eye from injury while healing takes place. Patients
usually experience no pain after the procedure, although some complain of a temporary feeling of a “foreign body”. 

Recovery varies – with some patients recovering full vision after 24 hours and others taking several days. One to four weeks after surgery, new glasses need to be prescribed, taking into account changes in vision.

While severe complications are rare, about one in three patients experience a “secondary cataract” within five years of surgery. However, this can be treated with a laser and does not warrant a second operation.

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