According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, cataracts are one of the most common causes of blindness in the United States. Although most everyone knows someone who has or previously had cataracts, there are plenty of misconceptions circulating about this condition and its treatment.
- "Only elderly people get cataracts."
While it is true that your risk for cataracts increases with age, there are infants born with cataracts, and you can be diagnosed at any time. No one is immune to the possibility of cataracts.
- "You have to let your cataracts 'ripen' before removal."
Decades ago, optometrists and ophthalmologists would have a patient wait until the cataract had sufficiently progressed before agreeing to extract it. In today's world, cataracts are usually removed when you feel you're ready. There is usually no reason at all to wait, especially if your vision is being negatively impacted.
- "Cataract extraction can rob you of your ability to wear contact lenses."
As with many myths, this one is a misunderstanding of the truth. You may not need contact lenses after surgery, or you may not be able to wear them again if there is a complication with healing. All surgeries carry risks, but the inability to wear contacts after cataract extraction is a rare side effect. Those who experience a typical surgery and healing period can usually resume contact wear in six weeks.
- "Cataract extraction is risky and very painful."
Many people who are elderly today remember their grandparents going through cataract surgery 50 or 60 years ago. Back then, patients spent multiple days in the hospital and had more pain. Now, a cataract extraction is done in a surgical center in under an hour. Patients can go home to rest with pain managed. Cataract surgery is nowhere near as complicated as it used to be.
- "Cataracts can be treated with pills or eye drops."
A cataract is a clouding of the clear lens in the eye. The only way to remedy it is to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens. Drops and supplements will do nothing.
Understanding the truth about cataracts will help you to make the best decision about your own ocular health. If you have additional questions or concerns, talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist before pursuing surgery.