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Cataracts

[WHERE ELDERS BLOG: Mary H. Warren has sent a photo of where she does her blogging. You can add yours to the collection too. Instructions are here.]

category_bug_journal2.gif If you have reached age 65, you have a 50 percent chance of having at least one cataract.

At 75 or older, you almost certainly have or have been treated for cataracts as nearly everyone, according to some sources, develops them by then. Age is the biggest predictor of cataracts and each year, three million people in the U.S. undergo surgery to replace the clouded lenses of their eyes.

The reason I know this is that I spent part of the weekend boning up on cataracts because on Friday, my new eye doctor told me that I have a cataract in each eye.

Damn and double damn. I have no patience with health problems.

So far, I have no symptoms. My vision is as good as it has always been with corrective contact lenses and the doctor says that the progression is gradual. I will need surgery, depending on the speed at which the cataracts develop, in two to seven years.

FUNNY ASIDE: You know how little kids hold up their fingers and tell you they are four years old. And they are particular about portions of a year saying, “I'm five-and-one-half years old.” Since this was a new doctor on Friday, he took a history of my vision health. When he asked how long I've worn contact lenses, I didn't say, “50 years” or “half a century.” Oh, no. Apparently having regressed to childhood, I heard myself say, “51 years,” adding that “one” as proudly as a little kid approaching her next birthday.

There are some myths about cataracts that are worth knowing:

• Aspirin does not prevent cataracts and can be dangerous in high doses.

• Vitamins C and E cannot prevent cataracts. They are being studied in this regard, but there is no proof yet and results will not be known for years.

• Cataracts cannot be treated with eye drops. Surgery is the only proven treatment.

• Nothing can be done to slow the progression of cataracts although if you are in the sun a lot, wearing UV-protective sunglasses will help a little.

In July 2009, the National Institutes of Health reported that researchers have discovered a gene, EphA2, associated with the formation of age-related cataracts. This could lead, eventually, to new and better treatments, but I'm not holding my breath for it to happen before I need surgery.

Among the known risk factors for cataracts are:
Diabetes
Heredity
Long-term steroid use
Long-term nearsightedness
Smoking
Long-term exposure to UV rays
Most of all, age

Because the surgery is 95 percent successful, cataracts appear to be relatively easy to deal with. Removing them and inserting new, clear lenses takes only 15 to 20 minutes and is done one eye at a time over three weeks on an outpatient basis. Recovery is quick and many people resume normal activity within a day or two.

Medicare covers the cost of cataract surgery and ordinary replacement lenses. There are premium lenses Medicare does not cover that can correct both near and far vision; they cost about $5,000 above what Medicare pays.

A bonus (if you can call it that) to having been diagnosed with cataracts, I discovered on Friday, is that Medicare will pay for my vision checkups now leaving only a $20 copay for me. Medicare does not otherwise cover vision.

The Mayo Clinic website has a thorough section on cataracts including cross-section drawings of the eye explaining cataracts, as does AllAboutVision and Wikipedia.

I'm guessing some of you reading this have experience with cataracts.

Having nothing to do with cataracts, here's a little something to make you feel good today. Dr. Bill Thomas of Changing Aging sent along a link to this video he describes as “two groovin' elders.” And so they are. Mark Penton and Harvey Berman singing and playing Sixteen Tons.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Alan Ginocchio: The Adventures of Snake Boy


Comments

Welcome to my world. I have one cataract and a baby one on the other eye. The Cataract on my right eye was so bad, everything had a cloud. While doctors prefer doing both in a short span for better vision, I had to have the right cataract removed. Took 20 minutes from start to my getting out. Wore patch for 1 day, came back the next day for patch removal and okay to resume almost normal activities. Some minimal restrictions.

You think you see well? Hah, wait till the cataract is gone. I saw colors, real colors and no haze. They used a multifocal lense so I have 20-20 vision in my right eye. My left eye is still 20-50 but will be corrected when that cataract grows.

I wear glasses since my left eye is bad with just a minimal lense to offset the lense in the left eye so I don't have trouble with balance, etc. I cannot wait to have the other eye done.

There was no pain. The only thing to do was use drops prior to the surgery.

I have to say that nurses are terrible patients. As a nurse, I thought of every complication. Fortunately none of those occurred. It was great experience if you can call surgery a great experience.

Sorry about your cataracts, Ronni. I have no signs of any yet.

I stole that video to put on Facebook. Those guys are really good!!

For me, cataracts were a blessing because now I have great vision. I had surgery on both eyes when I was 61. The surgery was not painful and I was able to resume normal activities on the day after.

My implants are called
"Rezoom" and I have 20/20 (or better) vision at all distances. Other than sunglasses, I don't need glasses for anything. And no more astigmatism! The biggest worry for me was the cost, since I haven't been able to afford health insurance for the past 9 years. But I had no choice. I was totally blind in my right eye. And my wonderful doctor gave me a break. Each eye was $4,000 and I think that's probably very reasonable. And it was outpatient surgery at his clinic, so no hospital costs.

So Ronni, there's really nothing to worry about. And it might be years before you need surgery.

Ronni:

I knew I had a problem when I had trouble driving at night. I saw strange halos around the lampposts.

I had two cataracts removed in different years at a relatively early age. I got regular lenses, not fancy ones (they weren't very common years ago), and I had no problems. I even was able to get bus service to and from the surgery done after my husband's death (one can't drive immeditely afterward).

If you have to have surgery, this is one of the easiest kinds. Do it when it becomes necessary.

I remember having lunch with a 92 year old friend the day after she had her cataract "done" -- her words. No ill effects at all. Good example to me, though so far I don't show cataracts according to the eye doctors. Both a grandfather and my father went blind in the days before cataracts were genuinely operable.

I just had my second cataract removed a two weeks ago. It was a walk in the park. I was in the surgery center less than two hours from the time I arrived until I walked out. There was no pain, I was aware of the mask being put over the upper part of my face covering my eyes, saw bright lights while the surgery was going on and found the whole procedure to be very interesting. My doctor didn't use an eye patch, but I went in the morning after surgery for a checkup. The surgery was pronounced successful and I see him again next week for the final check up.

I have a lot of scar tissue in that eye from a childhood injury so I will never have good vision in that eye, but I no longer am looking through clouds and it is 100% better than before.

The only discomfort I had was a headache the evening of surgery and the doctor thinks it was caused by dehydration due to not eating or drinking for 16 hours. I do advise asking for an early morning surgery so you can avoid that. You can't eat or drink anything for 8 hours prior to surgery. (Since I had to be at the surgery center less than eight hours after walking up I hadn't eaten since the night before) My vision was blurry for a day and a half, but when it cleared up I was thrilled with the result.

I am still using the eye drops four times a day and will continue until they're gone. It's a nuisance, but that's the only downside to the whole business.

I need to edit my comments before posting. That should have been 'waking up' not walking up. Oh well!

I've had cataract surgery - both eyes - 6 years ago - I'm now 64. I had one of those 'weird' things that seldom happen but are not 'uncommon' according to my ophthomologist. My biggest issue was bugging someone to drive me back and forth to the hospital. The most delightful result was the explosion of COLOR post-op. I thought that my neighbor's house had been sided in a soft gray - but - no - it happens to be a baby blue.

The other 'fun thing' was the my ophthomologist gives his patients flowers after the procedure. Whatta guy!

This is all excellent news, and it matches what I read over the weekend in terms of good outcome from the surgery.

I have a few years to go before I'll need it done, but since it feels like yesterday was Christmas, it will probably be time before I know it.

I had cataract surgery in both eyes, one at a time, about 7 years ago with the lens implant. After the surgery I no longer need distance glasses. I only use glasses for reading and close work

As was mentioned up thread, the color changes were remarkable. Before the surgery i was about to get my bedroom repainted the same color just to freshen it up as we had just moved into our town house.

I thought the bedroom was the most beautiful AQUA COLOR I had ever seen and I wanted just that same color.

Lucky for me the painting was not done until after the surgery. The true color was the most WIMPY BLUE I had ever seen.

The bedroom is now a nice yellow.

It seems sometimes cataracts add a green element to some colors.

Sorry to change the subject, but had to say that the link posted to my blog in the "featured" section goes to a different blog...the one below it on the list...

My husband(80) did the "walk in the park", both eyes, a week apart, special corrective lens and he's really pleased. I'm glad for him.

But really good news for me (73 2/3 today) and thousands of elders would be a cure for Macular Degeneration (dry). I'm following my mother's pattern, I'm afraid. She gradually lost her central vision until, at 90 she needed our care. Goodbye movies, bingo, crafts, TV, books, cooking, cleaning, crosswords, etc. Makes for pretty long days to fill. So far, I only need to enlarge the print on the computer screen and the funny papers are a real challenge, especially Dunesberry and Non Sequitur, two of my favorites. All the eye docs can do is recommend "Eye vitamins", which are expensive and not covered by my insurance. Research, spurred by the aging of baby-boomers, may be ramped up soon, but it'll be too late for me and the rest of us ARMD victims. (Hate to seem so gloomy, but it's that kind of a day here in Iowa.)

Let’s see how I’m doing…
Diabetes: nope
Heredity: Don’t know, don’t think so
Long-term steroid use: Does using a Ventolin count?
Long-term nearsightedness: Uh oh, there’s one
Smoking: Nope, never
Long-term exposure to UV rays: Living in Australia, that’s a given
Most of all, age: Well, yes.

I guess I’ll just keep a look out for it (oh, that was poorly phrased).


I think most of the time cataract surgery goes well. However my husband had complications with his cataract surgery. What we didn't know is that Flomax a medication for the prostate has an effect on the iris so it doesn't expand and contract very fast. This complicated his surgery as were not informed that the medication would present a problem. Now I see there is a warning advising people who take this medication to let their opthamologist know. Eventually he was pleased with the outcome but it took several months to get there.

When my mother had her double cataract surgery in the mid-1990s I took time from work to transport her, and was able to watch the operation. Her ophthalmologist had a great set-up with a small room facing a window wall into the operating room. The viewing room had about 12 theater chairs and a close-up TV screen, so I was able to watch through the glass at the whole operating room scene, plus the zoom camera view on screen of just the eye. Fascinating! She never had one bit of trouble afterward. Complete success. I'll be all set to go in the future without any fear or trepidation!

Thanks to Dr. Bill Thomas for this video. This is a great "16 Tons"! I remember years ago when Tennessee Ernie Ford released his recording. My sister-in-law and I loved it -- drove our jazz classics husbands crazy to think we could like Ernie singing this tune.

Cataracts -- can't tell you how many times I've thought about how fortunate we all are to have this lens implant surgery, if that's how they still do it. Otherwise, we'd all be either running around half or totally blind, maybe wearing huge bottle thick glasses to see even a smidgen.

My lens implant surgery went well with both eyes, so did my husbands, and the vast majority of all other elders I've encountered in the many facilities in which I've worked. People think of cataracts as an "old folks" problem, but my Optho. told me most would be surprised to learn how many younger people have cataracts develop, also, for several reasons.

I've always been extremely sensitive to having any problems externally around my eyes or with my vision. My mother had been legally blind for many years and doctors could never figure out what the cause had been, what the problem was, much less had they been able to correct it. I said I could handle any other kind of ailment, but just not my eyes.

Recall sitting in a concert hall watching a one-man show -- might have been Hal Holbrook doing Mark Twain. I suddenly noticed an ever-so-slight blur, so started closing one eye then the other to see if the blur remained (it did) and, then determined which eye.

My previous annual visual check-up at sixty or so, especially to rule out glaucoma, Opthamologist had told me, eyes fine and if no acuity problem now at my age I likely wouldn't have any -- vision the same in both eyes.

So, I was shocked these few years later when he told me "cataract" but relieved the problem wasn't anything more serious. I was initially angry (not at anybody) with the cataract diagnosis because I didn't want it until I was older, if I had to have it. Then, I wanted to put off surgery until I was an age where the implant would last as long as I lived so I wouldn't need another implant when I was eighty or ninety. But common sense prevailed and I had to follow the timeline my body dictated.

I was quite willing to allow time to elapse in the hopes the vision deficit progression would be real-l-l-y slow. I can't recall now if it was a year or more before I began to notice stars around the red and green traffic lights at night, and oncoming car lights seemed to bother me. Finally, I realized I was avoiding driving at night, so decided the time had come to correct the problem. By then, the Dr. noted a cataract forming in the other eye.

He provided me an education/release form to sign indicating all the possible adverse problems plus saying this lens implant was "experimental" in conjunction with a national well-known respected company that just happened to have their mfg. plant nearby. That term immediately raised a red flag in my mind so I wanted to check further, thus refused the surgery when I phoned his office. I spoke with that lens-producing company's tech people, others, then later with the Optho. and he said this was an old form they just hadn't gotten around to changing, that the lens implant process was now well-established.

I intentionally declined having both cataracts removed within a time frame closer than a few years. My rationale was that if by some fluke I was one of that small group experiencing problems before or after surgery, at least I would have one good eye for a while longer, even with a cataract, and could then decide how to proceed while the other eye was sure to have become long term stable.

Likewise should those implants age to the point of needing replacement when I was much older and might have unknown-now medical problems precluding my candidacy for surgery then, at least only one eye would go at a time.

Please understand, I did not fret, stew, or worry about all this, I simply made the decision and fully expected only the best result. Who's to say how logical or illogical my thinking was.

The lens implant and recovery went well without a hitch. Doing anything around my eyes was always a problem for me, but I successfully applied the stipulated eyedrops over the many days post-surgery. I wore my metal eye patch and subsequent special sunglasses for outdoors as recommended.

I delayed as long as possible with a few years passing before I had the other cataract removed. That process went just as well as the earlier one had.

My Optho. was disappointed that my acuity didn't completely eliminate my need for magnification. But, both eyes continue to be equally balanced, so I can still buy cheapie eyeglasses. Consequently, I have many glasses scattered about in key places all over the house, in my purse, within reach always. I definitely need them for reading small print as with prescription bottles, and use them with regular size newsprint though I can read the paper without glasses -- just with a little more effort. I wear half-glasses, so intimidatingly peer out over their top at others if I happen to have them on when someone contacts me while I'm wearing them. I typically buy 1.5 to 1.75 diops.

Optho. asked me at one point what I thought might have contributed to my cataract development. Thinking of my grandmother who had cataracts, I considered genetics, knew my past smoking could be a factor, and recalled snowy winters in Ohio when for about three years or so I used to walk a half mile or more in sun-glaring snow with squinting eyes, not always wearing sun glasses, though not intentionally. I remember others used to good-naturedly laugh at me asking if I thought I was some sort of Hollywood star wearing sunglasses in the winter.

Sorry to hear about the cataracts, Ronni, but thanks for inspiring so many folks to share stories. At 62, I have a cataract growing in one eye, the eye I injured as a teenager while sticking my head out of a train in France to avoid a man who was trying to make conversation. A friend just had the surgery. Her doctor told her an early injury to an eye can cause a cataract to grow earlier than it might have otherwise, which is what must have happened to me. I especially notice it when driving ... and driving at night is something I try to avoid now.

Ronni,

I had cataract surgery about 3yrs ago in both eyes. Before I had the surgery, I read alot info on the internet regarding the surgery and the types of replacements lenses.

I had been nearsighted for most of my life and the idea of giving up my near vision for distance vision was unsettling. I asked my doctor about the newer lenses that correct both near and farsightedness and he said I might
not be happy with the results. I had also heard from another person that the new lenses were not satisfactory for her. After consultation with my doctor and his knowing how I was feeling he said he could use one nearsighted lens in one eye and a farsighted
lens in the other much as is done
with contact lenses when a patient
starts losing close vision as they age. I agreed to this arrangement and have been very pleased with the results. My vision has been corrected to 20/25
I use corrective glasses for night driving and driving in unfamiliar places so that i can read street signs more quickly. I also use them for my computor. even if I should not have my glasses for any of these activities, I could still perform them with minimum negative effect.
Medicare paid for both lenses and I have not sacrificed my nearsighted vision! I am very pleased.

Early diagnosis of any potential problems will decrease the chance of severe damage to our sight like cataract.Anyway,congrats on this thoughtful article and the discussion it has generated.

thank you

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