Cataracts are a common cause of poor eyesight as we age. One in every four older Americans has them. Removing cataracts has an obvious benefit: restoring clear vision. But did you know cataract surgery has other benefits not related to the eyes?

During the procedure, an ophthalmologist replaces the eye’s cloudy lens with a new artificial lens, called an intraocular lens or IOL. The IOL often eliminates or reduces the need for glasses by correcting a person’s near, middle or distance vision.

This can expand patients’ lifestyles, allowing them to enjoy activities they previously avoided due to poor vision. Cataract surgery has also been shown to reduce the risk of falls — a leading cause of injury in older adults. And new research suggests that removing cataracts can help prevent dementia, too. 

Here’s what ophthalmologists have to say about these lesser-known benefits of cataract surgery.

#1: Life gets more fun after cataract surgery.

There are many aspects of life that we can’t control. But cataract patients get a say in how their vision will change. Before the surgery, patients discuss artificial lens options with their ophthalmologist and surgeon. Depending on a person’s vision, hobbies, profession and budget, they can choose a new lens that corrects either farsightedness, nearsightedness or astigmatism.

That means many patients may be able to ditch or diminish their reliance on glasses for reading, computer work, watching television and driving. Many patients find that they can resume favorite hobbies.

#2: Cataract treatment prevents injuries from falls.

Falls are a leading cause of death and injury among older adults, and the long road to recovery can lead to social isolation and depression.

About 1 in 3 falls occur in older people who wear bifocal or multifocal glasses. These types of spectacles reduce contrast sensitivity and depth perception, which can cause people to trip on curbs or steps.

People are less likely to need multifocal lenses after cataract surgery. Indeed, several studies suggest that cataract removal can reduce the risk of falls.

#3: Removing cataracts may help prevent dementia.

The link between vision loss and dementia has been a focus of recent studies. A new report makes a compelling case that cataract removal reduces the risk of developing dementia. The study followed more than 3,000 older adults diagnosed with glaucoma or cataracts for 24 years. Those who had cataract surgery were nearly 30% less likely than others to develop dementia, even after accounting for level of education, race, health history and access to healthcare.

All of these benefits reinforce the need for a comprehensive eye exam at age 40. Regular eye exams can detect and address cataracts and other vision-threatening eye problems. Experienced ophthalmologists, like Dr. Kavanagh, Dr. Acosta, Dr. Burns, Dr. Bui, and Dr. Rodriguez with Eye Associates of South Texas, can help older adults maintain and improve their quality of life as they age. Source: aao.org


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