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Why More Baby Boomers Are Seeking Cataract Surgery

Posted on May 24, 2024 by Henry Ford Health Staff

If you think cataract surgery is just for the elderly, you’re not alone. Traditionally, eye surgery to remove cataracts was almost exclusively for the 70—or even 80 and older—set.

“The typical age now is closer to 70, sometimes even younger,” says Kevin Everett, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Henry Ford Health. “And that’s not only because cataracts are showing up in younger people—it’s also because the surgery has improved.”

Better surgical techniques and better vision after surgery are making the procedure more attractive to Baby Boomers. If you’ve started noticing even the most subtle signs of cataracts, you could already be a candidate for surgery.

What Are Cataracts?

Your eye contains a natural lens. Its job is to bend the light that enters the eye and process those images to help you see clearly. When cataracts begin to form, that lens becomes cloudy.

Not surprisingly, a cloudy lens makes it difficult to see clearly. Symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurry or cloudy vision
  • Colors appearing dull or yellowish
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Double vision
  • Needing more light to read
  • Sensitivity to light (especially headlights while driving at night)

“We used to look for lenses that had become really yellow and dense from cataracts before recommending surgery,” says Dr. Everett. “But now, if a patient has signs of cataracts, we ask how well they can see at night or while reading.” If it’s getting harder to see well—even with contacts or glasses—surgery may offer a solution.

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Who Gets Cataracts?

Not everyone gets cataracts, but they are very common—and get increasingly common with age. In fact, by age 80 nearly 50% of people either have them or have already had surgery to remove them.

Aging is the most frequent cause of cataracts, but other factors increase your risk of developing them at younger ages. These include:

How Cataract Surgery Can Improve Your Vision

Cataract surgery has come a long way in recent years, which is part of the reason it’s become more popular among Baby Boomers. “With the technology and lenses we can now offer there’s no reason to wait any longer and put up with bad vision,” says Dr. Everett.

The techniques used for cataract surgery have improved so much that people experience very little swelling and quicker recovery. “The incisions are half the size of what we used to make,” says Dr. Everett. “And we almost never use stitches anymore.”

But the biggest benefit is the ability to deliver improved vision after cataract surgery. “We can correct astigmatism and, in some cases, get you completely out of glasses or contacts,” says Dr. Everett.

Depending on your needs, your doctor may recommend one of these cataract procedures:

  • Traditional cataract surgery involves replacing the cloudy lens with a new monofocal intraocular lens (IOL). These can only correct your vision for one distance. That means you’ll likely still need glasses to see up close.
  • Multifocal IOLs are a newer option that can improve distance, mid-range and close vision. This versatility can eliminate the need to wear glasses for driving, reading or anything in between.
  • Light adjustable intraocular lenses allow your doctor to painlessly adjust the correction several times after surgery using UV light, says Dr. Everett. “When we get to a place the patient likes, we can lock in the vision correction.”

While traditional monofocal cataract surgery is typically covered by insurance or Medicare, getting one of the newer, more advanced IOLs usually is not. “It’s considered cosmetic, so generally insurance won’t cover it,” says Dr. Everett.

The good news is that even monofocal cataract surgery can significantly clear up blurry vision and improve your ability to see far away. For those with only a mild lens prescription, that may be enough to help you ditch glasses for most activities.

Reviewed by Dr. Kevin Everett, a ophthalmologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center - Royal Oak and Henry Ford Optimeyes Super Vision Center - Sterling Heights.

Categories : FeelWell

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