May is Cataract Awareness Month! Did you know that over 24 million Americans age 40 and older have a cataract? That equals one in every 6 American adults in that age category. Cataracts are a worldwide problem and are the leading cause of blindness.
The good news is that cataracts are treatable, and blurred vision caused by cataracts can be restored. A trained surgeon can remove the clouded lens that blocks the passage of light into the eye and replace the lens with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. Today, IOLs are highly sophisticated and can be customized to your individual prescription and even your preference. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States with a very high success rate. It can often be performed in conjunction with glaucoma surgery, laser vision correction or astigmatism correction. The possibilities are truly endless.
Studies connect cataract surgery with longer life. Cataract surgery patients have a significantly reduced risk of hip fracture from falls. This only makes sense; if you can see more clearly, you are more likely to stay safe, retain your independence and be free from injury.
Eye care specialists are seeing an interesting trend in cataract surgery in the past several years. The majority of cataract patients are in their 70s and 80s, but there is an increase in patients between 50 and 65 who are electing to have cataract surgery. This may be due to the fact that the baby boomer generation is living longer and expects to maintain independence and an active lifestyle well into their later years. Why wait on removing a cataract until you are in your 70s when you can have it removed in your 50s and enjoy clear vision for those years?
The digital age also may play a part in decisions for earlier cataract surgery. Information on any subject is immediately at our fingertips, and most baby boomers and seniors use the internet. Simply typing in “cataract surgery” provides thousands of websites with information about cataracts, treatment options and benefits of the surgery. These sites all have common phrases such as “high success rate,” “20/20 vision,” “low risk,” and “outpatient procedure.” No wonder we are seeing the average age of cataract surgery lower!
Celebrate Cataract Awareness Month by sharing some of this information with the people you love. Encourage your loved ones to get regular comprehensive eye exams to keep their vision healthy. If their ophthalmologist says that they have a cataract that is developing, encourage them to explore earlier cataract surgery. They only have clear vision to gain and many years of independence!