U.S. survey results reveal misconceptions about cataracts and surgery. Here’s what you need to know to get the most from your procedure.
When it comes to healthy aging, we often think of strengthening our bodies and minds to sharpen what are commonly considered the most important aspects of our health: memory and mobility.(1)
For some, having a strong memory and being mobile may seem like enough to ensure that they truly thrive as they age. In reality, only 43% of Americans over 50 feel good about aging.(1) So what’s missing? How can we encourage more Americans to prioritize their health in a “pro-aging” manner?
I believe that to truly embrace pro-aging, we must also consider our vision health.
The Facts About Cataracts and Cataract Surgery
I understand that, as an ophthalmologist, I am a bit biased when advocating for patients spending more time and energy on their vision health, so I will let the facts speak for themselves: Nearly every person who lives long enough will develop cataracts. Beginning in our 40s, the proteins in our eyes start to break down and form clumps called cataracts, causing blurred or cloudy vision, impacting the way we’re able to interact with the world around us.(2)
Over 24.4 million Americans over 40 have been diagnosed with cataracts(3)—the country’s leading cause of treatable blindness—resulting in more than four million cataract surgeries in 2022 alone.(4) Once cataracts begin impacting your day-to-day activities, the only treatment is surgery.(2) I understand that “surgery” can sound scary, but cataract surgery is a very safe, highly effective outpatient surgery and is actually one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures.(5) Cataract surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist like myself and involves removing the clouded lens in the eye, and replacing it with a clear, artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).
If all this is news to you, then you’re not alone.
The Alcon Eye on Cataract Survey
Alcon, the global leader in eye care, recently released the results of a global survey that set out to evaluate vision and cataract knowledge among the world’s aging population. The survey included more than 1,500 Americans; the findings revealed a concerning number of misconceptions surrounding cataracts, demonstrating how undervaluing our vision health has affected our understanding of the disease that threatens it most.(1,3)
Some of the most critical findings of Alcon’s survey are as follows:
Misconceptions Leading to Delayed Care
I fear that the misconceptions revealed in the survey could be preventing patients from learning about potential treatment options that could help them live fuller, more active lives in their golden years. Lack of awareness around the benefits of the procedure may cause patients to delay seeking treatment.
Once a patient does make an appointment with me, it’s always great to see how relieved they are when they learn about the ease and safety of cataract surgery. However, as a physician, I believe that it’s my responsibility to equip my patients with this knowledge even before their initial visit to my office.
Cataract Surgery is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Procedure
Each of my patients has unique needs to consider when it comes to cataract surgery. The great news is that technology has advanced significantly over the last decade in this area, and there are many options to choose from. The standard IOL option is the monofocal. Monofocals only correct vision at one distance (usually set for the far distance), so while you may likely still need glasses to read a book or look at a computer screen, you won’t need them to see far away.(6,7) However, if you have astigmatism, you may need a special lens called a toric IOL; otherwise you will stay dependent on your glasses even for seeing far distances.
Some of my patients also desire independence from glasses at intermediate distances. These patients engage in outdoor activities like golf or pickleball, or they sit in front of a computer or tablet for long stretches of the day. An extended depth of focus lens like Vivity® or Vivity Toric (for those with astigmatism), is a great option here. Patients receive some near vision, but they will likely still need to use readers. Either way, dependence on glasses is usually greatly reduced compared to pre-surgery.(8)
If you are tired of searching for readers and squinting every time you read a book or text messages on your phone PanOptix® or PanOptix toric, Alcon’s trifocal IOL, may be right for you.(9) The majority of people who choose PanOptix do not need to use glasses at all post-surgery—as 20/20 vision is possible at distance, intermediate and near—so you also get the intermediate vision for reading GPS, playing pickleball, and distance vision for golfing and driving. It is the first and only trifocal IOL available in the U.S.
An ophthalmologist can help you choose the IOL that works best for your lifestyle and your eyes. I chose PanOptix lenses for my uncle, and Vivity lenses for my mother, based on their personal needs. Both are very satisfied with their vision and happy that they opted for advanced technology that offered them some or complete spectacle dependence.
Cataract Surgery Can Improve Your Quality of Life
The post-surgery Alcon Eye on Cataract Survey respondents agreed that after the procedure—which, in my experience, only takes about 15-20 minutes—they noticed a marked improvement in their lives. In addition to almost half of respondents agreeing that their vision had improved, 71% agreed that their overall quality of life was better post-surgery.(1)
This means that because those surveyed prioritized their vision by seeking out cataract treatment, they got more out of what makes people feel good about aging: spending time outside, being with family, reading, driving and more.(1)
If you are experiencing cataract symptoms and are ready to start prioritizing vision health in your pro-aging journey, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist. For more information about cataracts, where to find a surgeon, and available lens options, visit MyCataracts.com.