If youâre in your late 40s or early 50s, your odds of needing cataract
surgery are greater than ever before. According to Key-Whitman President
and Chief Surgeon Jeffery Whitman, M.D., âWeâve noticed
over the past 10 or 15 years that people are getting cataracts at a younger
age. Itâs now very common to see people in their early 50s or
even late 40s with cataracts.â
Dr. Whitman adds, âPart of the reason cataract surgeons are seeing
younger people with cataracts could be that weâre exposed to more
UV light, or possibly changes in nutrition or other environmental factors.
Those things havenât been determined yet, but here in Texas, weâre
seeing more patients with cataracts at an earlier age.â
Rita Morales is one such patient. Earlier this year her 83-year-old father
underwent cataract surgery, so when she visited Key-Whitman Eye Centers
in May, the 52-year-old was surprised when her eye doctor said, ââWeâre
going to check you for cataracts.â I thought, Iâm too
young for that!â she says.
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Rita Morales was âflooredâ when she learned she had cataracts.
From 20/20 vision to readers, poor night vision and glare
Rita scheduled her appointment with Key-Whitman because her
near vision had declined to the point where she was dependent on âdollar readersâ
to see, and she wanted to weigh her options. As an energy company senior
manager âIâm in meetings constantly. I already carry my
laptop, pen, paper and a bottle of water, now I had to carry readers,
too. If I lost them, I had to run to the store and buy another pair. I
wanted to be done with readers.â
âIâve always had 20/20 vision and never had glasses, but
probably in the last 5 or 6 years, Iâve had to wear the readers,
and that was bothersome,â says Rita. When she went in for her
eye exam, âthey started reading the symptoms of cataracts [night
vision, glare, loss of near vision], I thought, that was me!â
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Rita was concerned that she wouldnât be able to drive at night
if her eyes continued to get worse.
Learn more about the symptoms of cataracts here.
Advanced diagnostic tools help eye doctors diagnose cataracts earlier
New technological advances are helping eye doctors diagnose cataracts
earlier. âWe now have instruments that show us things we couldnât
see before. Now we can diagnose conditions like cataracts at a much earlier
stage. One of the latest tools we use is the HD Analyzer. Itâs
very quick, and in a two to three minute reading we can see if patients
are starting to get a cataract, and how dense and advanced the cataract
is,â Dr. Whitman says.
New HD Analyzer helps Dr. Whitman diagnose cataracts earlier.
Younger cataract patients donât want the inconvenience of glasses
Other younger Key-Whitman patients such as 64-year-old Jane Hood have
chosen to investigate cataract surgery several years after having a LASIK
procedure. Her near vision was beginning to decline when she found out
she had cataracts during an eye exam. âI had LASIK in 1997, so
I havenât had to fuss with glasses for all of these years. I didnât
want to have to use readers or do anything that had to do with glasses,â
Dr. Whitman often sees younger patients with cataracts who have previously
enjoyed the benefits of procedures like
LASIK eye surgery and donât want to go back to wearing glasses. âThe younger
population that weâre seeing now wants to continue looking younger,
they donât want to wear glasses or readers. With technology like
Crystalens,Â® multi-focal lenses like ReSTOR,Â® patients have more options that allow them to avoid wearing glasses all
the time,â he says.
Cataract surgery can reduce dependence on glasses and contacts
For Jane who is a teacher and loves to travel with her husband, wearing
glasses again was something she wanted to avoid. She
opted for cataract surgery with Crystalens lens implants, because âit allows you to read.
Itâs kind of like getting 21-year-old eyes, because you can avoid
wearing readers.â Janeâs cataract procedure lasted âless
than an hour, I didnât really feel anything, and there was no
pain involved whatsoever,â she adds.
âMost people can get out of wearing glasses and contact lenses
for the majority of their activities â at work, playing golf or
driving for example. Our patients who have active lifestyles appreciate
having less dependency on glasses or contacts. The other important thing
for younger people, is that we can
correct their cataracts and astigmatism at the same time,â Dr. Whitman says.
Early diagnosis and treatment of cataracts reduces complications
Patients like Rita and Jane may have been surprised that they needed cataract
surgery at such an early age (the average age for patients needing cataract
surgery is currently between 65 to 75 years old), but being diagnosed
and treated early on is critical.
Says Dr. Whitman, âOne of the things we advise patients today is
to not wait so long to get their cataracts removed. Weâd rather
get them out earlier when they are forming, as opposed to when they are
further along and getting dense. This helps reduce the chance for complications,
swelling and inflammation, which is more likely as cataracts get more
dense. Plus with the precision of laser-guided cataract surgery, surgery
is safer in the eye surgeonâs hands than ever before. â
If youâre in your late 40s or early 50s (or any age for that matter),
and experiencing symptoms like Rita and Jane,
schedule an eye exam right away. Cataracts occur as a natural part of the aging process, but
your odds of needing cataract surgery earlier in life are greater than
Keywords/tags: eye health, eye health trends, cataract, cataracts, cataract surgeon,
cataract surgery, eye exam, LASIK procedure, LASIK eye surgery, astigmatism