By Mark Siegel, MD, FAAO
A recent study indicated that people who suffer from vision loss related to cataracts that proceed with cataract surgery lower their long-term mortality risk by 40 percent compared to people that choose not to have surgery. The data used for the research study came from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, a group that researches vision and common eye diseases in an older Australian population.
The study that was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology studied a total of 354 patients over the age of 49 who suffered from visual impairment that was caused by cataracts. This study took place over a 15-year time span and evaluated patients who elected to have cataract surgery and patients who did not have surgery to correct cataract-related vision impairment. The study took adjustments into account such as age and gender as well as mortality risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking, co-morbid disease and cardiovascular disease to name a few.
The correlation between living longer and the correction of cataract related vision loss is not clearly understood, but several plausible factors may include improvement in physical and emotional well-being, optimism, the ability to live independently, as well as greater ability to comply with prescription medications.
Cataracts are typically slow to change over time, and their effects on vision can subtly progress to the point that the cataract might have unnoticed negative impacts on visual functioning, mood, and as a result, personal independence.
Cataracts occur when the eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy over time. Cataracts are a leading cause of vision impairment and will affect more than 50 percent of Americans by the time they are 80 years old. Cataracts can develop at different rates for everyone, but once they begin to develop, they will only gradually worsen and become more opaque over time. The best way to correct visual impairment caused by cataracts is to undergo cataract surgery where an ophthalmologist removes the natural lens of the eye and replaces it with an artificial intraocular lens. If you notice difficulty in completing everyday tasks due to vision problems, you should contact an eye care professional to discuss cataract surgery to improve the quality of your life.
Many people who suffer from cataracts complain of issues driving, especially at night, problems seeing color and detail clearly, and difficulty performing day-to-day functions at home and work. If cataracts go a long period of time untreated, people often lose their independence, ability to work and their quality of life may begin to suffer.
I have many patients who say they’re “too old” for cataract surgery. After undergoing cataract surgery, one is able to realize the colors and clarity of vision that were missing from their world. No one is “too old” for better vision and possibly a longer life as a result!