Perhaps you are over 50 years old and have thought about LASIK, laser vision correction, to reduce your need for contact lenses and glasses.
Maybe you were told that you are not really a good candidate for laser vision correction. Mild cataracts may be starting, you have too much astigmatism, farsightedness or high myopia (nearsightedness); corneal problems are all relative reasons to steer away from LASIK.
You may be a good candidate for early cataract surgery. There might have been a good reason you didn't have LASIK surgery when you were younger but you still wish you could reduce your reliance on your glasses and contacts. You might be thinking that there’s nothing you can do: too old for LASIK and too young for cataract surgery.
People hear about cataracts and they think the procedure is only for elderly patients. Surgeons used to wait for the cataract to “ripen” before considering surgery. This usually means the vision is extremely impaired and the lens is dense, opaque and thick.
Decades ago, the risk of cataract surgery related to large incisions, sutures, implant problems and thus doctors would wait for some dramatic visual impairment before considering surgery. In the modern era of cataract surgery, the incisions are smaller, routinely needing no suture; the implants (intra-ocular lenses) are better and more accurate. The safety and accuracy of cataract surgery has improved to a level that the threshold for considering surgery has shifted earlier.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye, most usually caused by aging, that can impair vision. More than half of all Americans age 65 and older have cataracts. Besides aging, other causes including injury, drugs such as cortisone or diuretics, diabetes, exposure to toxic substances, smoking, heavy alcohol use, diabetes ultraviolet light, or radiation and a family history of cataracts at a young age.
If there is visual impairment to limit the vision for activities of daily living, like driving at night due to glare, difficulty reading with the glasses and seeing television; then we can consider lens removal/cataract surgery using medical insurance coverage. The earliest symptoms of cataracts are often night glare, blurry or foggy vision, changes in the way you see color and contrast, difficulty driving at night and dramatic changes in glasses prescription.
Since our results in reducing need for glasses with cataract surgery have improved greatly in the past years, we have considered the same lens procedure for younger patients with strong glasses who aren’t good candidates for LASIK for some of the reasons mentioned at the top of the article. Some of these may be in their 50’s or 40’s.
More and more patients are choosing to go ahead with early cataract procedures. Insurance coverage will vary depending on the level of vision disability. Early lens procedure to reduce glasses with no real opacity will not be covered by insurance, but still patients are opting for these procedures. The costs are not too much more than laser procedures like LASIK. There is no exact time to do cataract surgery. Each patient is different and it is an individual choice.
Obviously, your best next step is to get good advice from an ophthalmologist. Call us to schedule an appointment at (502) 897-1604.