According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 24.4 million people over the age of 40 in the United States have cataracts. The chances of getting a cataract get worse as a person ages. By the age of 75, about half of all people get cataracts. Because cataracts are so common, many older adults undergo cataract surgery. June is Cataract Awareness Month, so if your aging relative is having cataract surgery soon, it’s a good time to learn more about what to expect afterward.
What Is Cataract Surgery?
Cataracts cause the normally clear lens of the eye to become cloudy. This makes it difficult for light to pass through the lens, which makes it difficult to see. During cataract surgery, the doctor removes the lens. Then, they usually put an artificial lens on the eye. The artificial lens is called an intraocular lens, or IOL. There are several kinds of IOLs that can be used, such as:
Fixed-Focus Monofocal: A fixed-focus monofocal lens has a single focus, usually for distance vision. The older adult will likely need to wear reading glasses to read.
Accommodating-Focus Monofocal: These lenses are able to respond to muscle movement in the eyes to focus on things that are far away or close up so that focus shifts from one to the other.
Multifocal: A multifocal lens is similar to bifocal glasses in that different areas of the lens allow the senior to see close up, at middle distance, or far away.
Astigmatism Correction: These lenses are used to correct vision in people with severe astigmatism.
What Happens Afterward?
It takes a few days after cataract surgery for the older adult’s vision to get better. It may be blurry at first but should improve over time. Follow-up visits to the doctor usually happen within a couple of days after the surgery, again after a week, and again after a month. The senior will be unable to drive for the first couple of days after surgery until their vision clears.
The affected eye might feel itchy or uncomfortable for a few days. This is normal and should resolve on its own. They should not rub or push on the eye. The doctor might recommend using an eye patch or shield to protect the eye. The eye should be completely healed in about 8 weeks.
Homecare can assist older adults after cataract surgery. A homecare provider can drive them to follow-up appointments. A homecare provider can also help with tasks that are difficult due to blurry vision after the surgery, such as going through mail or reading recipes.