Cataracts in Elderly Patients
As some have said, aging isn’t for the faint of heart. It is not always a pleasant experience as aches and pains and health issues seem to crop up faster than a storm on a hot summer’s day. Cataracts are part of the aging process reality for many older adults. Even though they tend to be common, understanding the symptoms, treatments, and necessary care, can make the prospect of a cataract a little less intimidating.
How to Recognize Cataracts in Elderly Patients
Cataracts in the elderly tend to appear slowly and over a long period of time. The lens of the eye is normally transparent. A cataract is simply a clouding of the lens portion of the eye. The first sign of a cataract is impaired vision. This may not be a serious impairment, but the older person may notice diminished vision.
Typically, to determine the presence of a cataract and the impact it has on the patient’s vision, an eye exam is necessary. The eye doctor will give a visual acuity test that will measure how well the patient sees at different levels.
In addition, a dilated eye exam may take place. The dilating of the pupils allows the doctor to get a better look at the optic nerve and retina.
Concerns When Caring for Elderly People with Cataracts
At a certain point, cataracts can limit a patient’s ability to do everyday things. As a care giver, it is important to provide a safe environment for the cataract patient to live in before treatment is completed.
Stairs and steps can become obstacles as cataracts progress. Also, driving can become problematic as the cataract worsens.
Once treatment – usually surgery – has been completed, it can be several weeks before a new prescription can be written for glasses or contacts. During this time, a caregiver needs to ensure floor spaces are kept clear to stop falls before they happen. Kitchens and bathrooms are also areas of the home where preventive measures should be taken.
Cataracts can sometimes make it more difficult for an older person battling other medical conditions — such as dementia. While dementia may not make for physical complications in actually undergoing treatment and surgery to remove a cataract, depending upon the severity of a person’s dementia, they may have more difficulty in cooperating with doctors administering tests or post-surgery care for their eyes.
When a cataract is first detected, the patient can attempt to offset the side-effects with brighter lights, new glasses, or even a magnifying glass.
The most common treatment for cataracts in elderly patients is surgery. Cataract surgery is a quick and easy procedure that be performed in an outpatient setting. During surgery, the cloudy lens is removed through a small cut made in the eye and replaced with a man-made lens. Cataract surgery can be done in a number of ways — including using special tools, ultrasonic energy to break up the lens and suction to remove the pieces. The most popular method of cataract surgery, as of late, is laser surgery, which allows for a greater degree of precision.
Typically, if the patient has cataracts in both eyes, one eye will be corrected at a time.
While cataracts are an annoying part of the aging process, with modern technologies, it is relatively easy to have them removed and continue on with your normal life.
Do you have a story about yourself or a loved one who has cataracts? If you do, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.
For more information, please review our Cataracts Resources.