CATARACT REALITIES UNKNOWN
By David Mallory, M.D.

    A study of 400 men and women over age 60 was recently done to determine their awareness and knowledge of cataracts. Many misconceptions were found.
Almost all those surveyed said they knew what a cataract was but only 16% were right, and knew that a cataract was a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. Most of those polled thought incorrectly that a cataract was a film or growth over the eye.

    Although the majority of people knew that fuzzy vision was a symptom of cataracts, nearly one half mistakenly cited reduced peripheral vision, seeing spots, or the need for reading glasses as cataract problems. Less than half cited reduced vision in sunlight or reading and glare as symptoms of a potential cataract.

    Another area where the survey found a great deal of misperception was in the risks associated with cataract removal. Close to 30% thought that the risk of cataract surgery was moderate to high. In reality, the modern ultrasonic removal of cataracts is one of the most successful operations in all of surgery with a 98% chance patients will see better.

    In choosing a surgeon, 91% of those polled considered the reputation of the physician, 89% considered his experience level and 66% considered the type of operation used by the doctor. Only 58% of people, however, knew that in almost all cataract procedures, a lens implant is used to replace the cloudy natural lens of the eye.

    The survey revealed that many older Americans do not seek professional eye care as frequently as they should. Nearly one third said that their last eye exam was more than a year ago. The development of a cataract can be so gradual that people can alter their lifestyle unknowingly. For example, a person may give up driving at night because "It's just not safe anymore," without realizing that his or her ability to see and function at night has been impaired by a cataract.

David Mallory, M.D. is a cataract, intraocular lens and laser surgery specialist at the Southwest Eye Clinic.



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