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Can Cataract Surgery Prevent Dementia?

Cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure that removes cataracts, the cloudy formations on the eye’s lens that impair vision.

Now, researchers are discovering that vision loss may be linked to a higher rate of dementia and suggest that restoring clear vision (through cataract surgery, for example) may reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Is There a Correlation Between Cataracts and Dementia?

More than half of those 80 or older have had at least one cataract. Many people in this age range also have dementia, a decline in cognitive functioning.

But is there a connection between these two seemingly unrelated conditions?

Recent studies suggest that, yes, there could be a link. One 15-year study found that patients with age-related vision problems, including cataracts, had a higher incidence of dementia.

The 2021 study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, followed 12,000 subjects aged 55-73. When compared to patients with healthy vision, cataract patients had an 11% higher incidence of dementia.

Can Cataract Surgery Prevent Dementia?

Can sight-saving cataract surgery reduce your risk of dementia? It certainly looks promising!

A 2022 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that removing cataracts was “significantly associated with a lower risk of dementia development.” In fact, patients who had undergone cataract surgery had a 29% lower rate of dementia.

In addition, MRI scans have shown greater brain activity following cataract surgery.

How Can Vision Loss Cause Dementia?

Scientists studying the link between vision loss and dementia suspect that vision loss negatively impacts the brain. They theorize that the more visual information we receive, the more active our brains are, and brain activity may be able to fend off dementia.

For this reason, by restoring clear vision, cataract surgery may stimulate the brain and prevent cognitive decline.

There could be an emotional and social dimension to cognitive decline as well. People who suffer from significant vision loss often feel isolated. They may feel discouraged by their inability to recognize faces or perform everyday tasks, and may avoid social interactions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, social isolation raises the risk of developing dementia by 50%.

If you have cataracts and you feel your quality of life is affected, schedule an appointment with Veo Vision Center in Orange without delay. We’ll answer your questions about cataract surgery and ensure you receive optimal treatment.

Q&A With Our Optometrist

How is cataract surgery performed?

Cataract surgery is a short 30-40 minute procedure that replaces your cloudy, natural lens with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL). First, the eye surgeon makes a hole in the cloudy lens and breaks it into tiny pieces. Next, the eye surgeon places the new clear lens onto the eye. You’ll be conscious throughout the surgery. The surgery is safe, effective and painless.

Is cataract surgery always successful?

Cataract surgery is highly successful, with a 99% success rate. Complications from cataract surgery are very rare.

What’s Your Optometrist Role in Cataract Surgery?

If you’re over the age of 60, there’s a good chance you’ll develop cataracts sometime in the next 20 or so years. While the only effective long-term treatment for cataracts is surgery, it can take years or even decades for a cataract to reach the point where it needs to be surgically removed.

In the meantime, your optometrist can monitor its progression, manage your symptoms and ensure you have the best vision possible. Once your cataract makes it difficult for you to function day-to-day, your eye doctor will refer you to an ophthalmologist who will perform eye surgery to replace your eye’s natural lens with a clear artificial lens.

Following your surgery, your optometrist will co-manage your post-op recovery in coordination with your eye surgeon.

Your Optometrist Will Discuss Cataract Treatment Options

A cataract, a clouding of the eye’s natural lens caused by the breakdown of proteins in the lens, leads to progressively blurry vision. So if you’ve been diagnosed with a cataract but aren’t yet ready for surgery, you’ll be having regular contact with your optometrist, who will explain the condition, discuss your treatment options and help manage your symptoms.

Once you’re diagnosed with cataracts, you may want to slow the progression of the condition. Working with an optometrist who knows your personal and family health history as well as your various options for cataract management and surgery is a massive advantage, as your optometrist can give you advice on dietary and lifestyle changes.

The Importance of Regular Eye Exams

Regular eye exams are important for everyone, and particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with cataracts. Because the cloudy areas on your eye lenses will worsen with time, your optometrist will carefully monitor your vision and upgrade your glasses or contact lens prescription as needed. Your optometrist will perform a visual acuity test and other tests to gauge increased sensitivity to light and glare, as well as deterioration in your contrast and color vision.

When’s It Time for Cataract Surgery?

At some point, your optometrist may determine that your cataracts are severe enough to require surgery. That’s typically when options to correct your vision — updated prescriptions and speciality filters that block glare and increase contrast vision — are no longer sufficient to give you the vision you need.

Your optometrist can recommend an ophthalmologist and provide information about what to expect during cataract surgery. You’ll see your eye surgeon for post-surgery check-ups, and your optometrist for long-term eye care.

If your vision is blurred or if you notice a cloudy patch forming on your eye, you may have developed cataracts. For optimal vision care and cataract management, make sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Alicea at Veo Vision Center in Orange today.

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Q&A With Our Eye Doctor in Orange, Connecticut

What’s the best treatment for cataracts?

Although many people use glasses to manage cataract symptoms and improve their deteriorating vision, the only way to really treat cataracts is via surgery. You may want to delay the procedure, but once your quality of life is affected to the degree that it’s difficult to drive or perform everyday tasks, it’s time to have cataract surgery.

Will cataracts return after surgery?

Generally, no. Because the eye’s natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one during cataract surgery, a cataract can’t return to that eye. That said, there’s a possibility that a few years after the surgery, you may need a quick laser procedure if the proteins on the lens capsule — the layer that holds the artificial lens in place — becomes cloudy.

All Day Relief from Dry Eye Syndrome

Normally, the eye constantly lubricates itself with tears by producing them at a slow and steady rate, keeping itself moist and comfortable. Usually these tears consist of three layers, an oily, a watery, and a mucus layer. Each layer has a specific role in lubricating your eyes. The oily layer is outermost. It’s main purpose is to slow evaporation of the tear. The watery layer is in the middle. This makes up the majority of what a person normally thinks of as tears. This layer cleans the eye and helps to wash away small foreign objects and particles. The inner layer consists of mucus. This mucus allows the watery layer to stick to the eye and spread evenly over the eye in order to keep it lubricated. In a person with dry eyes, either hormonal changes, side effects from medication or some other factor causes the eye to either not produce enough tears, or leave out parts of the tear that make proper lubrication possible.

Although dry eyes are not always curable, your optometrist may prescribe artificial tears to help with some of the symptoms. Artificial tears are lubricating eye drops that may help with dry, scratchy feeling eyes. Different artificial tears work in different ways. Some help replenish parts of the tear that your eyes are not producing on its own, others help to produce more tears overall. Your eye doctor will assist you to choose which will help you most. Dr NAME cautions, however, “These artificial tears should not be confused with eye drops that are advertised to ‘get the red out.’ These eye drops may indeed reduce the appearance of redness in your eyes, but this is accomplished by making the blood vessels in your eyes smaller rather than actually lubricating your eyes. As such, these drops can sometimes actually make your symptoms worse. One should also be aware that if you wear contacts, some eye drops require you to take them out before using the drops and wait 15 minutes or more before reinserting your contact lenses.”

“Symptoms of dry eyes include stinging or burning in the eyes, scratchiness, and excessive irritation from smoke or wind. Although it may sound counter-intuitive, the eyes’ response to the consistent irritation caused by dry eyes may also cause a person to experience excessive tearing. In this case, the eye is attempting to flush and lubricate itself by producing more tears, but is unable to do so successfully due to the rate of evaporation or inability to spread the tears properly.”, Dr. Alicea, Orange eye doctor.

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In this case, your eye doctor may recommend wearing sunglasses or goggles when outdoors to reduce your eyes’ exposure to the sun, wind and dust. For indoors, your optometrist may recommend an air cleaner and humidifier to take dust out of the air and add moisture to air which is too dry.
Some cases of dry eyes are seasonal, such as those which occur as a result of cold, dry winter air.
Studies have also shown that nutrition may have a part in helping to relieve some symptoms of dry eyes. Your eye doctor may recommend nutritional supplements such as omega-3. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are cold-water fish, cod, herring and salmon, as well as flaxseed oil. Mild dehydration can make symptoms worse too, so be sure to drink plenty of water, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices and milk.

Please don’t forget to make an appointment to see our Eye Care Specialist

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