Surgery is the only proven treatment for cataracts, and its safety record is much better than many people believe. More than 95 percent of cataract surgeries are successful and performed free of complications, according to Prevent Blindness America.
"The surgical treatments are outstanding, and they keep getting better as it becomes less and less invasive," Pflugfelder said. Surgeons today can remove clouded lenses through microscopic incisions as small as 2.2 millimeters, using tiny implements to chop up the lens with ultrasound waves and suction it from the eye. Cataract surgery often is done in about half an hour, and people go home able to see out of the eye the same day.
Replacement lenses also are getting better, but Pflugfelder and Bradford cautioned that they still are not perfect. Multifocal lenses can allow people to see up close as well as at a distance, but many people will still need glasses to help them read after surgery, they said.
"The outcome of current cataract surgery is very good, but we can't promise everyone they won't need glasses," Bradford said.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more about cataracts.
For more on cataract surgery, read about one woman's story.
SOURCES: Cynthia Bradford, M.D., associate professor, ophthalmology, Dean A. McGee Eye Institute, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City; Stephen Pflugfelder, M.D., professor, ophthalmology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
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