Age Related Health Issues Like Cataracts are Common - Are You Prepared for Cataract Surgery?

Most of us take our vision for granted, but as we get older, we start to hesitate about going to the DMV, have problems reading, or suffer from any other age-related vision problems. Cataracts are common, and surgery is usually the solution.

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Age Related Health Issues Like Cataracts are Common - Are You Prepared for Cataract Surgery?
5 Min Read August 24th, 2022

We sometimes joke about cataracts as we get older. What are cataracts? A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. The National Eye Institute (NEI) says cataracts can blur your vision and make your vision hazy or less colorful. These symptoms increase over time and can cause someone to experience problems with reading or doing everyday activities. 

Cataracts are very common as you get older. In fact, more than half of all Americans age 80 or older either have cataracts or have had surgery to get rid of cataracts. 

Most cataracts are age-related — they develop with regular changes in your eyes as you get older. But the NEI says you can get cataracts for reasons other than getting older — including eye injuries or following surgery for other eye problems such as glaucoma.

But no matter the type of cataract someone may have, the treatment is always surgery.

Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries today, but that doesn't mean everyone is ready. Since this type of eye surgery is incredibly common among older people, you will likely meet somebody who has already undergone the procedure. However, that doesn't mean you will fully understand the procedure and everything that goes with it. 

Here are some things you need to know before getting cataract surgery.

You Must Prepare

While the surgery is not as invasive as some others, it is still one you must prepare for. For example, you must fast the night before your appointment, abstain from alcohol for at least 24 hours, and may even need to stop taking your standard medicine before the procedure. Your doctor and their staff will explain this in detail before surgery.

The eye surgeon will need to know your medications since some medications, such as blood thinners, can interfere with the surgery or increase the risks. 

Complications Can Arise

Cataract surgery is relatively simple. During the surgery, the ophthalmologist removes the cloudy lens from your eye and replaces it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens. The surgery lasts about one hour and is almost painless. 

Usually, you are awake during cataract surgery. Patients may notice lights or motion but cannot see what the doctor is doing. It is pretty simple and routine, but sometimes complications can arise following surgery where patients develop an infection of eye tissue and fluid, also known as endophthalmitis. These infections may seem random, but there are some risk factors that patients must be aware of.

For example, suppose you have a history of proliferative diabetic retinopathy or diabetic macular edemas (DMEs) or have had too many concurrent vitreous procedures. In these cases, you'll be at a higher risk of endophthalmitis. Endophthalmitis is an infection of the tissues or fluids inside the eyeball and is considered an urgent medical emergency. 

There Are Different Kinds of Cataract Surgery

One question you should consult with your surgeon about is the different kinds of cataract surgery they can do. Traditional cataract surgery involves the surgeon making a small incision in your cornea to remove the cataract and place the new lens. It's worked for years, but the recovery process can be slow. 

Doctor doing eye surgery.

Recent innovations have made laser cataract surgery possible, but some offices don't have the proper equipment. Consider asking your surgeon if they can do laser cataract surgery as the time spent completing the procedure is shorter, and you will also have a much quicker recovery time.

Some people get other vision issues corrected when they have cataract laser surgery. Laser eye surgery can correct astigmatism, nearsightedness, hyperopia, and presbyopia.

Aging is something that everyone experiences, and the world is learning to accommodate these age-related issues in different ways. Many of us will face other age-related vision problems as we get older. These vision problems include:

  • Dry Eye - Our tear production tends to decline after age 40. Stinging, burning sensation, or a gritty feeling in the eyes are common symptoms. Eye drops are usually the solution; however, more severe issues need to be addressed by your ophthalmologist. 

  • Glaucoma - We hear a lot about glaucoma as many older adults have it and are always checked for it. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over 60. There is usually no pain and is typically the result of fluid not draining properly. The fluid build-up leads to pressure inside the eye that can damage the optic nerve. 

  • Floaters - If you see tiny specks, strings, and squiggles within your visual field, you have floaters. These specks will often 'float' throughout your field of vision. These are usually harmless and caused by normal age-related changes in the vitreous, a gel-like fluid that fills the back of our eyes. However, if they come on suddenly, it could signify a detached retina. 

  • Macular Degeneration - The macula is at the center of the retina. It is responsible for our straight-ahead vision and most of our color vision. Macular degeneration damages the macula; it can cause blurred or wavy vision and eventually central vision loss. Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss among people aged 50 and older. There is no cure, but you can slow the progression. 

  • Detached retina - A detached retina is considered an emergency situation. It happens when the retina peels away or detaches from its underlying layer of support tissue at the back of the eye. The most common symptoms are the sudden appearance of floaters, flashes, and reduced vision. If untreated, it will result in permanent vision loss in the affected eye. 

  • Trichiasis - This is a common age-related problem resulting from abnormal eyelash growth where the lashes are misdirected and grow inward toward the eye. This causes the lashes to rub against the eye's cornea or conjunctiva, creating irritation. Trauma or an eye infection can be the cause. The eye doctor will manually remove the lashes. 

See Your Eye Doctor

Good eye health starts with seeing your eye doctor regularly. Remember, there are differences between eye doctors.

  • Optometrists provide basic vision care and offer examinations, diagnoses, and vision correction for eye conditions. 

  • Ophthalmologists are medical doctors that specialize in eye health, vision correction, and surgical procedures for your eyes and vision. They treat more advanced eye health issues.

Vision Impairment and Long-Term Care

It is important to note that visual problems have also been linked to decreases in cognitive function. For anyone, as we get older, this is a significant concern. 

Vision, aging, and caregiving are often linked. Overall good vision is coupled with our overall quality of life. Good vision is tied to our ability to enjoy social activities with friends and family. Social interaction can also benefit our cognitive ability and even slow down dementia. 

Older adults with vision problems are also twice as likely to suffer falls that can lead to severe injuries, such as broken hips, and are a significant reason people need to go to the emergency room or a nursing home.

Due to the challenges that vision impairment imposes on older adults, they become less likely to remain independent. The greater the vision problem, the more likely an individual may need to be cared for in an assisted living or nursing home. 

For older people who are still independent, ensuring they remain proactive with their vision health is essential. 

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

You probably had noticed that your body is not like it was when you were 25. Everything starts to decline, including our vision. You can get depressed, or you can be proactive and be prepared.

Being proactive with health is like eating the apple and keeping the doctor away. The apple is good but being proactive in today's world includes seeing your doctor for check-ups and regular lab work at least once a year once you reach age 40. You should see your dentist and eye doctor every year as well.

Being proactive with planning is also vital so you can enjoy a successful future retirement. Being proactive means contributing to an employer's 401(k) and other retirement and savings plans. But, you must protect those savings from the ever-increasing costs and related burdens that long-term health care will place on your family and finances.

Long-Term Care Insurance is an affordable way to safeguard your income and assets from the costs and burdens of aging. It's true; nobody likes buying insurance (except maybe Flo on the TV commercials). However, LTC Insurance is something that has the potential of touching your family in a very personal way, protecting savings and reducing the burdens otherwise placed on those you love.

Most people get their coverage when they are in their 50s, but since a dozen states are considering adding the LTC Tax similar to what the State of Washington has imposed, younger people are searching for ways to avoid the lifetime tax and protect their 401(k).

Find an experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find appropriate coverage at the best value. Be sure they work with the top companies and understand underwriting, policy design, and claims.

Available Tools and Resources on LTC NEWS

Inaccurate or incomplete information about long-term care planning is common on the internet. Not every financial advisor or a general insurance agent has the background and experience to help you with long-term health care planning. LTC NEWS can help.

You have questions, and LTC NEWS has the answers. See the most commonly asked questions about long-term health care planning, along with accurate answers to these questions - Frequently Asked Questions

Find all the resources that are available on LTC NEWS right here - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning.

The cost of long-term health care services is climbing sharply nationwide. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows you the current and future cost of care services where you live - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State. 

How About Elderly Parents?

If your older parents or family members are declining and need help now, what can you do to help? You can get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether or not they have an LTC policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

Is a Reverse Mortgage Helpful?

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource. You can fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. 

You might be eligible at younger ages as well. 

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew," will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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