Many if not most seniors have heard the phrase, “You have a cataract.” It is often followed up by something like, “We’ll watch it for awhile.”
Cataracts are the the most common form of eye trouble after the need for glasses.
Glasses for site enhancement was best described in the book Lonesome Dove when poor eyesight was called ‘weak eyes.’
Cataracts however have nothing to do with weak eyes. It is a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque or cloudy, resulting in blurred vision.
As a cataract progresses, the sight in the eye with the cataract is reduced. Sometimes, greatly reduced. Limited site caused by cataracts, can not be corrected with glasses.
On one occasion, a optometrist advised his patient that even with glasses, the eye would see no better than 20/200. That is considered blind.
Who gets cataracts
If you’re a senior, you can expect to hear that you have at least one. In 2010, roughly 24.4 million Americans had cataracts, and that number is projected to grow to 50.2 million by the year 2050, according to NEI.
Cataracts, a form of aging in the eye, are generally found in older people. The chart here indicates that at age 65, nearly one in four will have a cataract. By age 80 that number soars to almost three out of every four.
We checked with National Eye Institute. When it comes to who gets cataracts, they said this. “The term “age-related” is a little misleading. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to get this type of cataract.
“In fact, people can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts cause problems with a person’s vision.”
What Happens When You Have A Cataract
After the obvious, which is finding limited sight in that eye, (some get cataracts in both eyes), the patient is evaluated to assure no other eye disease is present.
Following that, is a simple surgical procedure on the eye to extract the lens and cataract, and replace the lens with a new one. The new lens is man made and not a transplant as in cornea transplants.
You may be shocked to learn that cataract surgery is one of the most common forms of surgery for seniors. It is not uncommon to have a single clinic do as many as 20 to 25 procedures a day. One nurse said, “I assisted in the clinic for almost 20 years. In that time I think we did about 20,000 surgeries.”
Cataract Surgery Basics
The surgery is done to replace the lens inside the eye. The old defective lens is removed first, with an artificial lens inserted in it’s place. There is more than one type of lens, but that is getting a little technical for this article. With the new lens, vision is restored.
The procedure is typically performed on an outpatient basis. Usually in a clinic. No hospital or care facility stay is required.
Most procedures are done in less than 10 minutes. That does not include the pre-op period when the eye is prepared for surgery. Pre-op will include receiving eye drops and having an Iv port inserted into the arm, hand, or wrist.
The Iv is used to administer a sedative.
This short animation video will aid in describing the procedure. There are other videos available on YouTube that show actual surgeries. They are graphic and not recommended for those who are a bit squeamish when it comes to the eye.
If you have a cataract and it is having an effect on your ability to see, HealthLivingAfter60.com recommends that you have the surgery. The only downside is the inconvenience.
While there are certainly stories out there where people had a horrible experience, they are rare.
Anecdotally, HealthLivingAfter60.com has learned of dissatisfied patients who had extras included in the procedure. Some clinics will offer to correct other sight issues such as astigmatisms.
It is fair to say however, given the opportunity to have dental implants, or cataract surgery, cataracts will win every time. While there is more involved in cataracts, it is possible that a simple tooth filling is far more discomforting.
What are the risks?
Like any surgery, there will be risks. We took a look at what the Mayo Clinic had to say. Here is what they report.
“Your risk of complications is greater if you have another eye disease or a serious medical condition. Occasionally, cataract surgery fails to improve vision because of underlying eye damage from other conditions, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration. If possible, it may be beneficial to evaluate and treat other eye problems before making the decision to have cataract surgery.”
- Drooping eyelid
- Dislocation of artificial lens
- Retinal detachmentGlaucoma
- Secondary cataract
- Loss of vision
These risks are uncommon. All of them can be treated. None of them, absent other important factors are sufficient to avoid cataract surgery.
To put a lid on the risk angle, we checked with, VisionAware.org. Here is a summary.
“All surgery entails risk. Fortunately, with favorable outcomes at approximately 98%, cataract surgery is highly successful. There is still potential for serious complications, however, some of which can result in pain, permanent loss of vision, or even loss of the eye.”
If you have arrived as a senior, you will probably experience cataracts. You will however, likely face far more serious issues.
When the time comes, find a good clinic and get it done. Stay with the basics. Upgrades can create complications. By upgrades, we are talking about attempting to correct other sight issues such as astigmatisms.
Cataracts will be apart of life for most seniors. Don’t worry. It’s almost a walk in the park.
Question or Comments? Leave them in the comments section below. —Robert