Study: More middle-aged Americans are having cataract surgery

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Florida Eye Specialists

Guest Columnist

Cataracts are a normal part of aging, but cataract surgery isn’t just for the elderly. A recent study published in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery found that more middle-aged patients (age 65 and under) are having cataract surgery — and at younger ages. 

Cataracts are a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye, and they can begin to develop in your 40s and 50s. With current advanced technology, cataract surgery is safer and provides better outcomes than ever, so patients don’t have to put off surgery and live with impaired vision. With June serving as Cataract Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to review the signs of cataracts, the latest technology available for treatment and what to expect with surgery.

How to know when it’s time for cataract surgery

Cataracts develop slowly and painlessly over time — in fact, in the early stages, symptoms may be so mild that you don’t even realize your vision is changing. But as a person ages, cataracts grow to the point where they can get in the way of living an active, independent life. For example, when cataracts affect night vision, you may not be able to drive home from work in the evening. If your cataracts are advanced, you may also experience symptoms like blurry vision, double vision, sensitivity to glare and light, fading colors, and you may need to change prescriptions for glasses or contacts more frequently. 

The longer cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult it is to restore vision. It is recommended that patients age 60 and older have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataract, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and other vision disorders.

New technology and cataract surgery options

The technology for cataract surgery has come a long way in recent years, so it’s important to discuss options with your eye surgeon. The femtosecond laser, for example, provides a highly effective laser assisted cataract surgery that reduces energy, fluid and time used during cataract surgery, and results in a gentler procedure. The laser also creates a more precise and accurate outcome, which allows the surgeon to correct a wide range of vision problems, including astigmatism, far and near sightedness at the time of cataract surgery. This gives you the option to correct two eye conditions with one procedure and reduces the need for glasses.

What to expect before and after surgery

Prior to surgery, the surgeon should walk through the steps of the procedure to answer questions. It can be hard for patients to remember the questions they should ask in the moment, so consider writing questions out in advance and having them with you at the appointment. Some important questions to ask include what kind of cataract surgery is available to you and what kind of intraocular lenses you can choose from.

Recovery times after surgery have improved dramatically over the years. Many patients report clear vision the next day after cataract surgery. But each person heals differently, and you may need as long as a week or two before you see images in their sharpest focus. Your cataract surgery recovery should be complete in about a month, when your eye is completely healed.

If cataracts are impacting your daily life, you don’t need to wait for surgery. Younger patients tend to heal more quickly, resume normal activity more rapidly and enjoy better vision for many years to come. 

S. Akbar Hasan, M.D., is a Ponte Vedra resident and ophthalmologist at Florida Eye Specialists, the first practice in Northeast Florida to introduce laser cataract surgery. For more information about Dr. Hasan and his specialty treating cataracts, visit FloridaEyeSpecialists.com. 

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