Estimates for the number of people undergoing cataract surgery last year hovered around the three million mark. Despite this impressively high number of operations, there is a risk for serious, potentially blinding complications from cataract eye surgery. The good news is that these incidents are becoming increasingly rare, according to recent health news from a U.S. study.
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, usually caused when proteins in the lens start to clump up as you age. Cataract removal is the most common type of surgery in the U.S. When there are complications after surgery, more serious symptoms can include inflammation in the eye, bleeding, and detachment of the retina (the light-sensing tissue in the back of your eye).
For their study, the U.S. research team found that for every 1,000 Medicare patients who had cataract surgery in 2005 or 2006, four had at least one serious complication in the following year. Now, compare these numbers to those recorded six years ago: six of every 1,000.
The researchers took risk factors for complications into account — including having other chronic health conditions — and determined that people who had surgery in the mid-1990s were actually 21% more likely to have a serious complication than those who’ve had surgery in recent years.
The research team concluded that cataract surgery is a safe surgical procedure with low risks of severe adverse events. They also noted that the safety profile of this procedure has continued to improve over the past decade. One thing the researchers could not determine is why the improvement is happening — though they suspect that it’s likely due to technical advances in how cataract surgery is done.
These days, cataract removal is usually done via a technique called “phacoemulsification.” This technique requires the surgeon to make a small incision in the eye’s outer membrane. A tiny probe is then inserted. In an ingeniously devised procedure, the probe emits sound waves that break up the lens. The lens can then be suctioned out and replaced with an artificial lens.
This same type of procedure was also done in the 1990s. But improved equipment and instruments have triggered a decline in severe complications, according to the research team. There are still some patients, though, who remain at a relatively higher risk of complications from cataract surgery, so the decision to go ahead with the procedure is a personal one. With that in mind, here are five tips for preventing cataracts from forming in the first place:
1. Wear sunglasses
2. Have a little red wine
3. Eat some squash
4. Be like the British and put bilberry jam on your morning toast
5. Take a vitamin-C supplement