Cataract Surgery May Add Years to Your Life

Medically reviewed in July 2022

Cataract surgery doesn’t just give a boost to aging eyes, says one study—it could actually make you live longer.

Australian researchers examined 354 people, age 49 and older, who had vision loss caused by cataracts. The participants had an initial exam and then follow-up visits five and 10 years later. The study was published in the September 2013 issue of the journal Ophthalmology.

By the end of the study, those who opted for cataract surgery had a whopping 40 percent lower risk of dying compared to those who skipped the operation.

The reason is unclear, but researchers have some theories. One is that people who have the surgery simply live better—their improved vision may allow them to be happier, more active and independent. Or, perhaps they’re better able to read their prescription bottles and take their medications correctly. Another possibility, however, is that people with serious health problems may be too sick for cataract surgery, and those health problems may explain the higher death risk. 

Spotting the signs of cataracts
More than half of Americans develop cataracts by the time they turn 80. Cataracts come on slowly, so you may not even notice that you don’t see as well as you used to. But watch out for the following signs:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Faded or diminished colors
  • A glare or halo around lights, or lights seeming to bright
  • Reduced night vision
  • Having double vision or seeing multiple images in one eye
  • Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses 

These symptoms could also signal other eye problems, so see an eye care professional if you experience them. If your doctor suspects you have a cataract, he or she will give you a comprehensive eye exam that may include a combination of a:

  • Visual acuity test. The doctor uses an eye chart to help measure how well you see at various distances.
  • Dilated eye exam. Eye drops are used to dilate your pupils to help your doctor better examine your eyes.
  • Tonometry. This instrument measures the pressure inside of your eye.

If you have a cataract, discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Not only is it a smart health move on your part, but it could add some precious years to your life.

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