7 Surprising Facts Women Should Know About Cataract Surgery Regardless Of Age

four women smilingYou may think cataracts are something only retirees have to worry about, but cataract surgery isn’t just for the 70-plus set anymore. In fact Key-Whitman Eye Center’s
Dallas optometrist Amanda Hoelscher encourages her patients to get cataract surgery as soon as it is deemed medically necessary – and that could happen years before their first AARP cards come in the mail.

From work performance to loss of independence, Dr. Hoelscher explains how unresolved cataracts interfere with daily living.

7 Surprising Facts About Cataract Surgery For Women

Most people don’t think about cataract surgery until a loved one undergoes the procedure or they are diagnosed themselves. In addition, cataracts, symptoms of cataracts and cataract surgery are also often misunderstood, especially since the condition is commonly associated with the elderly and how cataract surgery was performed in the past.

If you care about maintaining good vision and quality of life, these seven surprising facts about cataract surgery are worth a read.

No. 1: Cataracts Are A Reality, Even For Younger Women.

While the likelihood of getting cataracts increases as we age, other factors can accelerate the formation of cataracts. According to Dr. Hoelscher, “Many things cause cataracts. Certainly, if you live long enough, you will get cataracts, but cataracts can also be brought on earlier in life. Genetics, lifestyle, certain medications and diabetes can increase your risk of getting cataracts younger.”

Ironically, one of Dr. Hoelscher’s youngest cataract patients works as a technician at her North Dallas optometry office.

“I have a technician who was self-treating her dry eye with lubricating drops, because her vision had gotten cloudy. She was in her 30s, so cataracts being the cause of her blurry vision was the furthest thing from her mind. After she’d been using the drops for a couple of weeks, we sat her down for an exam. As it turns out, cataracts were clouding her vision – not dry eye. She’s since had cataract surgery and is doing wonderfully,” Dr. Hoelscher says.

No. 2: If You’re Of Working Age, Untreated Cataracts Could Affect Job Performance – Or Worse – Prevent You From Working.

Does your job involve reading fine print, doing computer work, handling small parts in a manufacturing environment, driving a truck or forklift, coaching, competing in athletics, artistic pursuits, etc.? Poor vision due to cataracts can make it difficult or even dangerous to perform these jobs.

No. 3: The Longer You Allow Cataracts To Steal Your Independence, The Harder It Will Be To Get It Back.

Dr. Hoelscher doesn’t wait until a patient has lost his or her independence to have cataract surgery. As she explains, “I like to see patients get their cataracts taken care of when they first start having trouble driving at night and reading road signs. It’s my opinion, that early intervention (with cataract surgery) is better for people with cataracts. You don’t want to stop doing regular activities and lose independence,
which is what happens when people delay cataract surgery. The longer people give up regular activities, the less likely they are to return to them.”

No. 4: Fear Shouldn’t Prevent You From Having Cataract Surgery.

“Unlike the old days, when it was best to wait for a cataract to get ‘ripe’ before performing surgery, today, cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries performed in the United States. Patients are also surprised at how quick and painless the procedure is, too. Don’t let fear stand in your way,” Dr. Hoelscher says.

Learn what to expect before, during and after cataract surgery and check out our cataract surgery checklist in this recent post.

No. 5: Cataract Surgery Can Reduce Your Dependence On Glasses And Contacts.

Another thing that’s come a long way since the early days of cataract surgery is the vast array of high-technology lenses available to patients.

As Dr. Hoelscher explains, “One important conversation we have with patients prior to cataract surgery is regarding what their goals are for their vision. We have high-technology lenses that can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Some patients are happy to regain quality distance vision and rely on readers for up close vision. However, if you’d like your best chance to be less dependent on glasses or contacts after cataract surgery, we may be able to offer you a lens to improve your distance, near or in-between vision at the time of cataract surgery.”

No. 6: You’ll Be Shocked At What You’ve Been Missing.

Along with glare issues, the clouding of the natural lens that occurs with cataracts can affect contrast sensitivity, depth perception and how vibrant colors appear. “One of the things I ask patients to do on the day after their first eye surgery is to look at something printed on a white background and compare the whiteness seen with the operated eye vs. the non-operated eye. Patients are pretty blown away at how dramatic that cataract has affected their color vision,” Dr. Hoelscher says.

No. 7: Having Cataract Surgery May Help Lengthen Your Life.

recent UCLA study of 74,000 women ages 64 and older revealed that women who had cataract surgery had a 60 percent reduced risk of early death from all causes. While the researchers didn’t pinpoint cause and effect, Dr. Hoelscher believes inactivity and loneliness may be partially to blame.

As she explains, “While the UCLA study couldn’t isolate what to attribute the reduced risk to, one of the keys to healthy aging is staying active and maintaining social ties. Loss of vision can lead to both inactivity and isolation. Having cataract surgery can also help patients navigate their surroundings better by renewing contrast sensitivity and depth perception, so tripping and falling is less likely.”

How Do You Know It’s Time To Get Cataract Surgery?

Dr. Hoelscher encourages patients to see their eye doctor when key symptoms of cataracts interfere with daily life. As she explains, “Cataracts – when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy and discolored – eventually lead to problems with glare. The glare primarily occurs in bright sunlight or from headlights when you’re driving at night. If glare causes you to avoid driving at night or cloudy vision is impeding your work, then it’s probably a good time to get cataract surgery.”

For most insurance plans, patients must meet three conditions in order for cataract surgery to be deemed medically necessary.

These conditions include:

  1. Cataracts need to meet a certain medical description.
  2. The patient needs to fail either vision or glare testing.
  3. There must be a specific complaint about poor vision or glare that qualifies the patient, i.e., patients can no longer see to drive safely.

If failing vision is affecting your quality of life, see your eye doctor right away. He or she can determine whether cataracts are to blame and further explain the conditions required for medically necessary cataract surgery.

Is Glare Or Cloudy Vision Affecting Your Quality Of Life? We Can Help.

If you’re having vision problems – regardless of your age – schedule an eye exam to find out if cataracts or another eye condition is the culprit. The earlier eye issues are addressed, the sooner you can get back to enjoying life to its fullest.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hoelscher at Key-Whitman’s Dallas location or a Key-Whitman eye doctor in Dallas, Arlington, South Arlington, Mesquite or Plano contact our office at (214) 225-2577 or set up an appointment online.

About Dr. Hoelscher

Amanda Hoelscher, O.D., performs comprehensive dilated eye examinations for diagnosis and treatment of ocular disease and is extensively trained in preoperative and postoperative management of cataract and refractive surgery. A graduate of the University of Houston College of Optometry, she also served as a co-investigator for the FDA in LASIK.

Dr. Hoelscher sees patients at Key-Whitman’s North Dallas office, a practice dedicated to multi-generational family eye care. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her two children.