Benefits of Cataract Surgery

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Cataract via
Cataract surgery is the most commonly preformed procedure in the US, and with new healthcare changes being actively debated, the "popularity" of cataract surgery has drawn a lot of attention.  A cataract is a thickening of the lens inside the eye, resulting in blurry, distorted vision that no glasses can improve.  For more information see this post.  Everyone gets a cataract eventually; it's part of being human.  But removing a cataract can mean more than just having clearer vision.  Studies are finding major health benefits that span beyond reading a few lines on a chart.

1) Cataract Removal Is Associated with Less Falls
Falling is a huge risk factor in the elderly population, and it means more than just injury and possible surgery.  Elderly patients that fall spend more time in hospitals, more time in nursing homes for recovery, and number of falls suffered are highly correlated with eventual death.  As many as 40% of all patients that enter the hospital over age 65 are hospitalized due to falls!  New studies show that removal of cataracts reduce the amount of falls a patient will suffer -- with better vision, patients can see and navigate their world more accurately.  

2) Cataract Removal Improves Ability for Independent Living
Similar to results seen above, studies have shown a linkage between cataract removal and better ability to live independently.  Elderly patients with cataracts removed not only fall less, they have better mobility around their own houses, and better ability to see to perform daily tasks like using the stove, and taking their own medications.

3) Cataract Removal May Improve Cognitive Ability and slow onset of Alzheimer's Disease
Imagine being stuck in a cloudy world where your daily life is limited by how poorly you see?  It is no wonder that elderly patients with cataracts have higher rates of depression and dementia.  A new study out of Paris showed that patients had improved mood and improved cognitive scores on a standardized tests following cataract surgery.  It is being theorized that this "improvement" in cognitive ability will correlate with delayed onset of Alzheimer's.  A patient with cataracts removed has better ability to see and interact with their world, keeping the mind active and engaged.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with visually significant cataracts, it is always your choice to get them removed.  New data shows that removal means more than just clearer vision on a chart; it can make a huge difference in quality of life.  As healthcare cuts are being considered, I encourage all law-makers and all patients to keep this in mind; longer wait times might not seem such a sacrifice for cataract removal, but it could mean more falls in elderly patients, which bring with it a huge financial burden to the healthcare industry in addition to the obvious health hazard to each and every patient.  We are lucky to live in a country where a cataract can be diagnosed, and then removed in a very timely manner.  Most of my patients requiring surgery are able to have it performed on both eyes within a few months time.  I would hate to see any patient having to wait longer for a procedure that has now become so relatively low in risk with such huge rewards!

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