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A more colorful world....

We're looking at cataracts in this month's cover story--this leading cause of vision loss is common in older Americans, but fortunately a relatively simple surgical procedure can restore your sight if you develop them. The procedure has a high success rate: more than 90 percent of cataract surgeries restore useful vision, with a low risk of complications. As a recent patient, I can vouch for the benefits.

I was aware that I had cataracts--my eye doctor had detected them during a routine vision check. However, it is standard practice to put off having them removed until they are interfering with one's ability to carry out normal activities such as driving, watching the television, and reading. It was my love of reading that was the deciding factor for me, as I began to notice more than a simple inability to focus without my reading glasses. I was requiring more light to read by even with my glasses on--the room just wasn't bright enough. It also was difficult to read type that was printed against a colored background.

It's normal to feel anxious when considering any type of surgery--and sight has special value to us all. Knowing that my surgeon was experienced in cataract removal helped me feel much more confident about the procedure. Ask your regular eye doctor to recommend a specialist, and when you meet with him or her, ask how many cataract procedures they have performed. He or she should thoroughly explain the procedure (including potential complications), and what artificial lens options are available to you. In our article, we touch on these--I opted for lenses that provide distance vision. While multifocal lenses are available, these are not covered by Medicare or many other commercial insurers. They also require very precise placement relative to the eye's pupil in order to function correctly, so if you elect to have them, make sure your surgeon is experienced in working with them. Many people also opt to have one lens to correct distance vision and one to correct near vision. If you're considering this, have one eye operated on first and use a contact lens in the other eye in the interim, to ensure you are comfortable with a different focusing ability in each eye.

I don't recall much of the procedure itself--it was carried out under what is called "twilight anesthesia," an approach that sedates a person without rendering them unconscious. Afterwards I felt no discomfort, and I had clear vision. In fact, it was only then that I became aware how much the cataracts had been affecting my sight, since colors appeared much brighter. I'm now enjoying my reading again without needling to switch all of the lights on, and I'm wearing my glasses much less than I did previously.

Vision is precious, and the eyes are a particularly delicate part of the body. Many people have a phobia about surgical procedures involving the eyes, and even if cataracts are seriously impairing one's vision, the prospect of having them removed can be daunting. Keep in mind, however, that this type of surgery is so common you likely have family and friends who have undergone it. If you are anxious, it may help to speak to them about their experience.

By Rosanne M. Leipzig, MD, PhD


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Title Annotation:cataracts; FROM THE EDITOR
Author:Leipzig, Rosanne M.
Publication:Focus on Healthy Aging
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 2013
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