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Am I too old for cataract surgery?

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Dear Dr Onu,

I am 85 years old and I was diagnosed with cataracts several years ago. Recently the doctor said that the vision in my right eye is 20/200 and 20/80 in my left eye.{{more}}

I suffer from diabetes and hypertension and he also told me that my eyes are extremely dry. He said that glasses would not help. He recommended lubricating eye drops and suggested that I undergo cataract surgery.

Because of the poor vision, I have practically given up driving and reading is now proving extremely difficult.

My sons and daughters are discouraging me from having surgery, as they think I may be too old for this procedure. They are also scared that something may go wrong that could make me lose my sight. Do you think that I am too old, and would cataract surgery correct my vision?

Worried Elderly

Dear Worried Elderly,

Thank you for this timely question. I get asked this question very often. My response always is that you are certainly not too old to have cataract surgery.

Due to the availability of modern procedures, cataract surgery, even in the presence of diabetes and hypertension, is possible. Of course, it is still necessary to seek advice from your general practitioner; however, from an eye standpoint, surgery should not be a problem, as long as the retina is intact.

There are very rare cases where cataract surgery is not advised. This is because we now use high-tech methods to remove the cataract and implant the lens.

Most family members sometimes try to block their loved ones from having surgery, mainly due to fear.

I should, however, let you know that cataract surgery is a very safe procedure and is usually successful 97-100 per cent of the time.

We no longer need to give injections to numb the eye. We use what we call topical anesthesia. This means that eye drops are applied to the eye and they ensure that there is no pain during the procedure. There is hardly any strain on the heart or any other organs of the body. We also do not necessarily need to use sutures [stitches] anymore. The lens is emulsified and sucked out of the eye.

This is the procedure that most people call “laser”. It is really ultrasound that is used in a process called phacoemulsification. Let’s face it, 97 per cent of cataracts affect people in your age group. Because it is a condition that affects your age, it can also greatly affect your quality of life. This often makes one dependent on others, when all that is needed is a simple procedure.

My advice to you is to seek counsel from your eye doctor and if the green light is given, then please, go ahead with the procedure.

To your health. Have a great week!

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: Beachmont@gmail.com

Tel: 784 456-1210

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