More 40- And 50-Somethings Are Getting Cataract Surgery: What Gives?

Man looking at his phone closelyUntil she entered her 40s, Leslie Lingle passed her vision tests with flying colors, seeing 20/20 for years. However, like most people in their 40s, Leslie found herself relying more and more on reading glasses to get by. Then something strange happened. She noticed her vision was getting progressively blurrier, and while watching T.V. or working at her computer, she found there were little chunks or pieces she couldn’t make out on the screen. After a thorough eye exam at Key-Whitman Eye Center, Leslie was shocked to learn she had cataracts.

“When my eye doctor first said ‘I see a cataract growing on your eye,’ I said no, that can’t be true, at the time I was only in my late 40s, and immediately all I could think of was my grandmother was 79 when she had cataract surgery. So, I said, this just can’t happen to me at this age,” explains Leslie.

“People with cataracts don’t realize what they’re missing out on.”

After much trepidation and following insight from the team at Key-Whitman, Leslie opted for traditional cataract surgery. Her only regret is she didn’t have cataract surgery sooner.

Leslie explains why she was pleased with her cataract surgery and why people shouldn’t put it off.

“I probably let the cataract live for a little longer than it should, because I was nervous about getting cataract surgery. But everyone at Key-Whitman seemed to understand what I was going through, and my eye doctor put my mind at ease,” Leslie says.

According to Key-Whitman Dallas Ophthalmologist Faisal Haq, M.D., “Younger patients like Leslie are often surprised to learn they have cataracts. At the same time, the diagnosis brings relief, because we explain that it isn’t uncommon to get cataracts when you’re in your 40s and 50s, and we have solutions that are safe, fast and effective.”

So, are people really getting cataracts earlier today?

Despite the occasional news report purporting as much, Dr. Haq isn’t convinced. As he explains, “What we can say we know for sure is more cataract surgeries are being performed earlier, and there’s no reason to wait until you’re significantly impaired to have the surgery, especially if vision problems are interfering with activities of daily living (when insurance typically covers the procedure).

The reasons people get cataracts earlier are usually trauma, diabetes, genetics, or lastly, the use of prednisone or other steroids for various medical conditions. These factors definitely expedite the formation of cataracts, but they all have been around for a long time.”

Aside from a rise in the number of vitrectomy surgeries (which are performed in a very small subset of the population), Dr. Haq hasn’t seen other compelling evidence to indicate people are getting cataracts at an earlier age.

Instead he believes, “More people are getting cataract surgery earlier, because the risk associated with the cataract procedure has been drastically educed as compared to years past, and most people know someone who has had cataract surgery and raves about the results.”

Most cataracts are easy to fix and shouldn’t slow you down

When a cataract began to affect her daily routine more regularly, especially at work, Leslie knew she needed to take steps to improve her vision.

“I design training materials, so I’m at my computer all day. I noticed there would be spots that would be blurry or pieces I couldn’t see, and I started favoring the one eye that wasn’t exhibiting the cataract. That’s how I really knew it was impacting me at work,” Leslie says.

Leslie explains what she loves most about getting cataract surgery and how her astigmatism was also corrected during surgery.

As an eye doctor who specializes in treating cataracts, Dr. Haq says, “We regularly see patients with cataracts who are at the point where glare and blurred vision interfere with activities of daily living. But you don’t need to put up with cataracts like back in the 70s when surgery was riskier.

With the leading edge technology we use at Key-Whitman today, cataract surgery is much less invasive (typically only a 2.5 mm incision is required), faster and easier to perform. Even more important, high technology lens implants allow patients to see better really quickly, most patients report its painless, no hospital stay is required and healing time is much shorter now.”

Along with eliminating blurriness, colors can be more vibrant after cataract surgery

Following Leslie’s procedure, she was astonished after the surgical patch was removed from her eye. As she explains, “When the patch came off, I expected the blurriness might be gone, or at least be diminished, but it was fully gone.

What I didn’t know, was that the colors that I had been seeing in my cataracts, were so different than the vivid colors that were really out there. You lose colors incrementally over time, they just kind of fade. So I didn’t notice the change, and now all of a sudden they are bright again.”

Don’t wait, the earlier you get cataract surgery, the lower the risk

According to Dr. Haq, “In the past, it was actually technically easier to perform cataract surgery when the cataract was much more advanced, or what we call ripe, because at that point it was like a pebble and easier to remove in one piece. Younger cataracts are softer and more gelatinous.

Today, the risk and ease of surgery is reversed. With the ultrasound technique and lasers we use now, it’s a lot easier to remove the younger, softer cataracts and correct vision problems like astigmatism.

In fact, with the femtosecond laser we use, there is even less invasiveness, and we can perform steps now that were previously done by hand, which is much more reproducible, accurate and precise. This is an exciting advance that will only evolve and continue to improve.”

So if you have symptoms that are attributable to cataracts, which are affecting your activities of daily living, don’t wait. Cataracts can be removed safely and efficiently, and like Leslie, you could be seeing beautifully in no time.

Photo Source: Dollar Photo Club