When did you last have your vision checked? As we age, we become more likely to develop cataracts or other vision issues. While many doctor appointments are top of mind, eye health may be overlooked – but because cataracts affect over 24.4 million Americans aged 40 and older, it’s vital to know the signs and symptoms of cataracts to maintain healthy vision.
Vision problems as people age not only impact their ability to remain independent and continue doing the things they love, but also can create safety issues. Research indicates that vision is a factor in the increased risk of falls in older people. Because cataracts develop and continue to progress over time, people do not always notice the symptoms until their vision has been significantly impacted.
The good news? “Cataract surgery is the most common surgery performed by an ophthalmic surgeon – I do over 1,000 cataract surgeries a year,” says Dr. Neda Shamie, renowned cataract, LASIK and corneal surgeon, and partner of the Maloney-Shamie Vision Institute in Los Angeles. “It’s an incredibly precise and safe surgery, with benefits that far outweigh the risks.”
Here are Dr. Shamie’s top tips for maintaining healthy eyes as you age:
1. Set calendar reminders to get vision checked at least annually. Encourage your parents and other loved ones to set regular visits with an eye doctor – even if they do not wear corrective lenses or glasses. Having a complete eye examination, including checking for issues such as glaucoma and cataracts, is crucial to overall health and well-being.
2. Be aware of top signs of cataracts and proactively ask your parents if they are experiencing vision problems, like having difficulties driving at night. Common signs of cataracts include:
* Cloudy or blurry vision
* Seeing faded colors
* Difficulty seeing street signs
* Sensitivity to bright light
* Seeing a halo around lights
* Seeing double
* Often changing glasses prescriptions
3. Know about risks for developing cataracts. Although cataracts are extremely common with aging, a number of factors are more likely to increase someone’s risk of developing cataracts. This includes diabetes, smoking, steroid use, alcohol consumption or spending a lot of time in the sun.
4. Learn about cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is a relatively quick surgery and has a short recovery time. A specialized surgeon removes the cloudy lens in the eye that has the cataract and replaces it with a clear lens known as an intraocular lens (IOL). As with any surgical procedure, there may be risks involved. Ask your eye doctor about the risks and benefits of cataract surgery.
5. Correct your vision. A number of IOL options are available, including ones that can provide different vision corrections which may minimize or potentially eliminate the need to wear glasses or contacts after the surgery. IOLs can correct vision for those who are farsighted, nearsighted and have astigmatism. This means glasses may no longer be needed for reading a book, looking at a computer screen or seeing where a golf ball or pickle ball went.
“Cataract surgery comes with many different options to not only correct vision, but also to reduce the need for glasses or contacts – if the appropriate IOL is chosen,” added Dr. Shamie. “It is important to choose a surgeon who can explore these options and help you find the right match for your lifestyle needs. I tell my patients that anyone who is lucky enough to live a long life will likely get cataracts, so it is not something to fear. Treatment is accessible and highly successful.”