Interesting article about cataract surgery and its benefits in the New York Times today. While a Microsun lamp doesn’t cure cataracts, the full spectrum high intensity light is color balanced to make reading with cataracts easier, and in the early stages, it can be a huge help. Cataracts are a readers worst enemy, a Microsun lamp is a readers best friend.
After 72 very nearsighted years, 55 of them spent wearing Coke-bottle glasses, Jane Quinn of Brooklyn, N.Y., is thrilled with how well she can see since having her cataracts removed last year.
“It’s very liberating to be able to see without glasses,” Ms. Quinn told me. “My vision is terrific. I can even drive at night. I can’t wait to go snorkeling.”
And I was thrilled to be able to tell her that the surgery very likely did more than improve her poor vision. According to the results of a huge new study, it may also prolong her life.
The 20-year study, conducted among 74,044 women aged 65 and older, all of whom had cataracts, found a 60 percent lower risk of death among the 41,735 women who had their cataracts removed. The findings were published online in JAMA Ophthalmology in October by Dr. Anne L. Coleman and colleagues at the Stein Eye Institute of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, with Dr. Victoria L. Tseng as lead author.
A cataract is a clouding and discoloration of the lens of the eye. This normally clear structure behind the iris and pupil changes shape, enabling incoming visual images to focus clearly on the retina at the back of the eye. When cataracts form, images get increasingly fuzzy, the eyes become more sensitive to glare, night vision is impaired, and color contrasts are often lost. One friend at 74 realized she needed cataract surgery when she failed to see the yellow highlighted lines in a manuscript she was reading; for her husband, then 75, it was his ophthalmologist who said “it’s time.”
Cataracts typically form gradually with age, and anyone who lives long enough is likely to develop them. They are the most frequent cause of vision loss in people over 40. Common risk factors include exposure to ultraviolet radiation (i.e., sunlight), smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, prolonged use of corticosteroids, extreme nearsightedness and family history.
Wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays and a hat are important preventives. Eating lots of foods rich in vitamin E (such as spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds and sweet potatoes); the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (in kale, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables), and omega-3 fatty acids (in spinach and oily fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines) may also reduce the risk of cataracts.
Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed operation in the United States, with more than three million Americans having cataracts removed each year, according to the organization Prevent Blindness America. With tiny instruments, the cloudy lens is sucked out of the eye and an artificial lens inserted in its place. After about half an hour in recovery, patients can go home.
“Not only can cataract surgery give people a better life while they’re living it, they can also live more of it,” Dr. Coleman said in an interview. The women in the study who underwent cataract surgery lived longer even though, over all, they were sicker to begin with — as a group, they had more heart attacks, chronic pulmonary disease, peptic ulcers and glaucoma than those who did not have surgery.
Previous studies had shown a lower mortality risk in men as well as women following cataract surgery, Dr. Coleman said. The new study, while confirming the earlier findings of fewer deaths in women, was also large enough to show just how the operation can extend life. Those who had cataract surgery subsequently had reduced risks of death from cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological and infectious diseases, as well as cancer and accidents.
In explaining this result, Dr. Coleman said that when people can see better, “they can also move more and get more exercise. They can see their pills better and may be more likely to take them and take the right ones. The surgery also improves visual contrast, which decreases the risk of accidental deaths from falls or driving. It’s important to get the best vision a person can have.”
And for those of us who love reading, life isn’t quite as much fun when our favorite pastime becomes a struggle. The high output, full spectrum light you get with a Microsun lamp is one of the best ways to make reading a joy again- and possibly extend your life.