If you're 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., "We've noticed over the past 10 or 15 years that people are
getting cataracts at a younger age. It's now very common to see people
in their early 50s or even late 40s with cataracts."
Dr. Whitman adds, "Part of the reason cataract surgeons are seeing
younger people with cataracts could be that we're exposed to more
UV light, or possibly changes in nutrition or other environmental factors.
Those things haven't been determined yet, but here in Texas, we're
seeing more patients with cataracts at an earlier age."
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 he was
going to check for cataracts. She thought "I'm too young for
Rita Morales was
floored 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 "dollar readers" to
see, and she wanted to weigh her options. "As an energy company senior
manager, I'm 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
"I've always had 20/20 vision and never had glasses, but probably
in the last 5 or 6 years, I've had to wear the readers, and that was
bothersome," says Rita. When she went in for her eye exam, they started
reading the symptoms of cataracts [night vision, glare, loss of near vision],
and she thought, "That was me!"
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. "We now have instruments that show us things we couldn't
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. It's 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,"
Dr. Whitman says.
New HD Analyzer helps Dr. Whitman diagnose cataracts earlier.
Younger cataract patients don't 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. "I had LASIK in 1997, so I
haven't had to fuss with glasses for all of these years. I didn't
want to have to use readers or do anything that had to do with glasses,"
Dr. Whitman often sees younger patients with cataracts who have previously
enjoyed the benefits of procedures like
LASIK eye surgery and don't want to go back to wearing glasses. "The younger population
that we're seeing now wants to continue looking younger, they don't
want to wear glasses or readers. With technology like Crystalens,® multi-focal lenses like ReSTOR,® patients have more options that allow them to avoid wearing glasses all
the time," 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 "it allows you to read. It's
kind of like getting 21-year-old eyes, because you can avoid wearing readers."
Jane's cataract procedure lasted less than an hour. "I didn't
really feel anything, and there was no pain involved whatsoever," she adds.
"Most people can get out of wearing glasses and contact lenses for
the majority of their activities, 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," 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.
Dr. Whitman explains, "One of the things we advise patients today
is to not wait so long to get their cataracts removed. We'd 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 surgeon's hands than ever before."
If you're 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 ever before.