Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Remember the old song; the foot bone’s connected to the leg bone? Well here’s an interesting connection—better vision could lead to a 16 percent lower risk of hip fractures. Fixing cataracts can restore clear, colorful vision. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, having cataract surgery lowers the risk of breaking a hip as well in adults 65 and older.
How could cataract surgery affect hip fractures? “Seeing helps you navigate a new environment and helps with balance,” lead investigator Dr. Anne L. Coleman of Brown University told the New York Times. “You really need your eyes and vision to help you stay stable.”
Older patients and those who were very ill benefited the most from having cataracts removed with a 23 to 28 percent reduced risk of hip fractures.
Cataracts are more treatable than ever. That’s good news, considering half of all Americans will be diagnosed with cataracts by age 80. “In the U.S. alone, cataract affects over 24 million Americans 40 and older,” says Richard J. Mackool, M.D., director, Mackool Eye Institute, and senior attending surgeon, New York Eye and Ear Institute.
Cataract surgery has come a very long way over the last 50 years. What was once a complicated surgery with a two week hospital stay is now a simple outpatient procedure that takes a few minutes. “Cataract removal has a very high success rate. Most people can return to normal routines within 24 hours,” says Dr. Mackool. About 3 million people have cataracts removed in the U.S. each year, making it one of the most common procedures. The eye’s cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens. Traditional lenses can correct distance vision, but newer advanced technology lenses can also help correct pre-existing eye conditions like astigmatism and age-related presbyopia. These newer intraocular lenses can potentially eliminate the need for glasses.
It’s important to know that medications, eye drops, exercises, and eating healthy can’t reverse cataracts. The only effective way to correct a cataract is to remove the clouded lens with minor surgery. It becomes a matter of “when” rather than “if” you should have the procedure done. This study suggests that acting earlier may help prevent other health problems that accompany poor vision such as falls. Cataract surgery can also mean more independence since better vision allows you to confidently do more everyday things on your own.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only half the estimated 61 million adults at high risk for serious vision loss visited an eye care professional in the last year.
To make sure you are protecting your eye health, follow these few simple steps.
• Everyone 50 or older should get yearly comprehensive eye exams. This allows for detection of eye diseases in early stages, before you experience vision problems, some of which may be permanent.
• Adults over 50 should be mindful of symptoms of common age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, the leading cause of reversible blindness in the U.S. Blurry vision and needing more light to read even while wearing glasses can be early signs. With a cataract, the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, allowing less light to pass through, making vision blurry. In early stages, symptoms may not hold you back, but vision may worsen as the cataract grows. It’s important to get examined as soon as you notice changes in vision, even if they seem minor. In later stages, you may experience poor night vision, colors looking dull, difficulty with glares or halos, and double vision.
Seniors should talk to their doctors and visit the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute website, www.nei.nih.gov, to learn about cataracts and treatment options.