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Cataracts & Health—Getting Rid of One Improves the Other

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on August 16, 2016

It’s no secret that once cataracts are removed, a person can see better. Studies have also shown that both health and quality of life improve with cataract surgery, regardless if it was just one or both eyes.

Of course, that’s obvious. If you see better, then you have a better quality of life. Still, there is more to this than meets the eye, no pun intended.

Regarding cataract surgery and death, a study was done in Australia to see if those who had the surgery lived longer. The study involved a total of 354 people age 49 years and older who had a vision assessment between 1992 and 2007 and had follow-ups five and 10 years after the exam. Those who had the cataract surgery had a lower risk of death, than those who didn’t. How much lower? Try 40 percent lower.

Researchers believe that in addition to having a better quality of life, persons who had the cataract surgery are better able to comply with prescription medication direction and have increased confidence to tackle the tasks of daily living, not to mention the lower likelihood of injuries as a result of poor vision.

In addition to having a lower death risk, another study was done in the U.S. which found that cataract surgery led to a decrease in hip fractures. Fractures are a significant cause of illness, especially for those over the age of 65, and can indirectly lead to death. Since vision plays an important role in balance and stability, being able to see clearly allows a person to navigate paths, be it the sidewalk in front of his or her house or the path from the kitchen to the living room.

This study was done at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and it looked at over a million Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older who were diagnosed with cataracts between 2002 and 2009. Out of all of these persons, 410,809 had cataract surgery. Among those who had the surgery, it was found that there was a 16 percent decrease in the odds of getting a hip fracture one year after the surgery. For those with severe cataracts who had the surgery, the decrease in the odds of getting a hip fracture was 23 percent.

If that isn’t enough to convince you about improving health and quality of life, even a cataract surgeon raves about cataract surgery, but not for the reason you think. Ophthalmologist Charles Slonim, MD was diagnosed with early cataracts at age 55. Prior to his having the surgery, he would wait until his patients had 20/50 vision before discussing cataract surgery. Once he had the surgery, he realized that vision quality deteriorated despite being able to read a vision chart correctly. In his case, he could not distinguish dark colored objects when the background was dark, such as a dark colored car at night. His surgery brought home the depth of vision he and others were missing with cataracts. Now he urges patients with cataracts to get the surgery as soon as possible.

These studies show that cataract surgery does more than just improve vision. Being able to see better, helps people to live better.


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