Average Age for Cataract Surgery is Dropping



The risk for cataracts increases as we age, but the average age for cataracts is dropping. Around one to two percent of all cataract surgery patients are in their early 40s, but many young people are unaware that they already have a developing cataract.

A recent study by the Mayo Clinic found that more people are choosing cataract surgery at a younger age. The study examined cataract procedures done from 2005 to 2011 in Olmsted County, Minnesota, and 20 percent of the surgeries were performed on patients younger than age 65.

How do you know that you have a cataract? Some people have described a cataract as "looking through a dirty, Vaseline-smudged window." Cataracts are more noticeable in bright light, so playing outside or going to the beach can make vision seem extremely hazy and blurred. Because cataracts never improve and only worsen over time, it is only advantageous to have the cataract removed when it interferes with daily tasks and affects quality of life.

According to Dr. Rosa Braga-Mele, chair of the cataract clinical committee of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, doctors are seeing that their younger patients are less willing to accept the annoyance of a cataract and want to have surgery sooner. Braga-Mele points out that the baby boomer population (those who are in their 50s and 60s) wants to eliminate "any hurdle to their independence" and often want to have cataracts removed sooner rather than later.

Certain careers may also influence whether a person wishes to have cataract surgery earlier. Katie Roberts, age 37, has had cataract surgery on both eyes. Her first procedure was at age 32. As a firefighter, she relies on clear vision and wanted to have cataract surgery as early as possible. Other individuals may not be bothered by a developing cataract and may want to wait until it gets worse to have it removed.

Thanks to developing technology, ophthalmologists can detect cataracts earlier nowadays, and new methods have made cataract surgery less invasive than ever (Source: Today).