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Cataract surgery is safe for all ages. There is no age limit on when you can get the surgery.
The best time to get your cataracts fixed is when they start to interfere with your everyday life, making it hard for you to see well enough to read or drive. (Learn More)
You can get cataract surgery at any age, but in elderly adults, there are some additional circumstances to consider, such as underlying medical conditions, deteriorating tissue, and a potentially longer healing time. (Learn More)
Cataract surgery can greatly improve your quality of life. Talk to your doctor about the safety and benefits of cataract surgery for you.
The Ideal Time for Cataract Surgery
Cataracts typically start to form in your 40s or 50s, but they often do not really start to impact your vision until after age 60. In the early stages, you can manage cataracts by changing your eyeglass prescription, keeping lights brighter, and using anti-glare sunglasses.
As the cataracts progress, they will start to make it hard for you to see well at night, read clearly, and drive safely. At this point, surgery is the only way to improve vision that is impaired by cataracts.
The best time to have cataract surgery is when the cataracts are negatively interfering with your ability to perform everyday tasks, such as driving and reading.
The Safety of Cataract Surgery for the Elderly
Surgical procedures can be riskier in older adults, especially people over the age of 65. But this is not true for cataract surgery.
In essence, there is no such thing as being “too old” for a cataract surgery. The procedure is regularly done successfully on patients in their 80s and 90s.
There are many reasons that cataract surgery is considered safe for older adults.
- Cataract surgery is a same-day and minimally invasive procedure.
- Local anesthesia (typically in the form of eye drops) is used, so general sedation and systemic medications are not necessary.
- The eye and ocular system are closed off from the rest of the body, so many health problems impacting other parts of your system will not influence cataract surgery.
- Medications like anticoagulants often do not have to be stopped prior to cataract surgery.
Today, people are living for decades past age 65. Cataract surgery can improve vision and enhance overall quality of life for many years, even when the surgery is done later in life.
Considerations for Surgery in Older Adults
While cataract surgery is safe and effective for elderly patients, there are some factors to take into account when operating on an older adult. Older adults often suffer from arthritis, so it can be difficult to lay in the typical downward/supine position during the surgery.
All medical conditions, ailments, and medications need to be assessed prior to cataract surgery to determine how, if at all, these factors need to be addressed before, during, and after surgery. While this is true for anyone undergoing surgery, it’s even more important for seniors.
Tissue, including ocular tissues, are more fragile and difficult to work with in older adults. This can make cataract surgery more complex, and the surgeon may need to use more delicate care for older patients.
It is also important to note that cataract surgery will only improve vision related to the cloudy lens. It will not fix problems related to glaucoma, macular degeneration, or other common age-related eye and vision issues.
Generally, it takes a few weeks for your eyes to heal completely after cataract surgery. This timeline can be extended in older adults. There is a risk for additional postoperative complications, such as swelling after the procedure. For this reason, older adults often need to be kept on anti-inflammatory medications for longer after cataract surgery, to reduce the potential for negative side effects.
Talk to your eye doctor about all the risks and rewards of cataract surgery, no matter how old you are.
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Is Cataract Surgery Safe for Patients Above 65 Years of Age? (February 2014). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
Cataract Surgery in Patients Older Than 90 Years Old. (July 2018). Ophthalmology.