Study Shows the Unexpected Benefits of Cataract Surgery

September 10th, 2019

Recent studies have found that in addition to clearer vision, cataract surgery yields a number of other lifestyle benefits.

As we age, the lenses in our eyes may become cloudy and dull. This condition, called cataracts, is incredibly common —- by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have cataracts or have had surgery to remove them.

Cataracts develop gradually, sometimes over the course of decades, and since their symptoms — which include blurry vision, muted colors, and heightened glare — are sometimes mistaken for the general side effects of aging, it’s possible for someone to have cataracts and not realize it. 

As your lenses become increasingly cloudy, this vision impairment interferes with your ability to take part in everyday activities. The good news is that cataract surgery is one of the safest and most commonly performed procedures — nearly 4 million people have the surgery each year, the vast majority of whom report significant improvements to their vision. 

The benefits of the procedure don’t stop there. A recent study has presented a number of findings on how cataract surgery can enhance patient safety and quality of life in a variety of ways.

The Real-World Benefits of Cataract Surgery

Researchers in Australia decided to test the real-world effects of visual impairment by having patients use a driving simulator before and after cataract surgery. Because driving relies on many elements of vision — including depth perception, reading and contrast, and peripheral vision — they decided to compare before-and-after results to measure the improvement in patients’ vision. 

The results? Participants were involved in 35 percent fewer crashes and near-misses in the simulator following surgery to remove one cataract — and that number fell to 48 percent following surgery on the second eye. While the scope of the study was fairly limited, by incorporating forms of assessment outside the standard vision acuity test, the researchers pointed out a number of other benefits that stem from having the procedure.

The Other Benefits of Cataract Surgery

In addition to increased safety, cataract surgery can contribute to an overall enhanced quality of life. While clearer vision provides obvious benefits when it comes to being able to read, drive, or watch TV, it also allows patients to regain some of their independence and sociability. The numbers support this too — one study from 2013 found that patients report substantial improvements in their quality of life following cataract surgery compared to those who did not have the procedure.

Because vision loss is a contributing factor to falls and fractures — which become more dangerous as we age — cataract surgery helps to reduce the risk of fall-related injuries. Another study from 2012 found that for patients age 65 and up, having cataract surgery reduced the risk of hip fractures by 16 percent in the year following the procedure. That percentage jumped to 23 percent for those with severe cataracts. Finally, having cataract surgery is associated with a 40 percent reduction in mortality — meaning that many patients who have the surgery generally live longer than those who don’t.

If you’d like to learn more about cataract surgery, contact the Swagel Wootten Eye Institute today to schedule an appointment at our Mesa and Chandler locations. Our doctors and eye care specialists are ready and able to answer any questions you may have and make sure you’re feeling confident about choosing the treatment plan that’s right for you.