Anxiety & Cataract Surgery: Alleviating Fear of the Unknown

Anxiety & Cataract Surgery:  Alleviating Fear of the Unknown

Each year, more than 3 million cataract surgeries are done in the United States and more than 20 million are done worldwide. With so many surgeries being done, there is a good chance that a family member or good friend of yours has had cataract surgery recently.

Cataract surgery is also one of the most successful surgeries done in America today, with patients almost universally noting improved vision with very little discomfort. Nevertheless, the thought of eye surgery can be tremendously anxiety provoking for many people.

As a cataract surgeon who performs more than 1,200 cases annually, I have aimed to combat the problem of patient anxiety before and during cataract surgery. I have realized over the years that patient anxiety stems primarily from the ‘unknown.’ In other words, patients don’t know what to expect before and during surgery and so they naturally fear the worst.

“It’s my eyes you’re working on, doc” is a refrain I hear very often from patients as they attempt to express their point of view. Having not gone through cataract surgery myself, it’s impossible for me to understand exactly what my patients go through; however, I have taken feedback from thousands of patients and incorporated that feedback to create as stress-free a surgical day as is possible for every patient.

The first, and most key component, to alleviating patient anxiety is to remove the fear of the ‘unknown.’  I tell every patient what to expect every step of the way so they don’t expect the worst and remind them that they should not experience pain.

Secondly, I tell patients about how much time remains in their surgery at various points during the case. Thirdly, I remind my patients that everything is going well. There are many other nuances to alleviating stress during surgery that I employ and many more that I am still learning to develop.

I hope that all young surgeons in all fields strive to develop both their surgical skill and their empathy toward their patients who are entering ‘unknown’ territory with only their surgeon as their guide. The more empathy we as surgeons have, the more likely our patients are to trust that they will have a positive surgical experience, and in turn the less anxiety our patients will have.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Marshall Eye Surgeons at 304-691-8800.

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Vishal Verma, MD

Dr. Verma is a board-certified ophthalmologist practicing with Marshall Eye Surgeons and an assistant professor with the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. He completed his undergraduate and medical training at Washington University in St. Louis and residency at The Ohio State University. After practicing for four years in the Columbus, Ohio area, Dr. Verma returned home to West Virginia to join Marshall Eye Surgeons where he specializes in cataract and refractive surgery.

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