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Cataract surgeries on the rise as boomers age

Dec 12, 2013

Study also finds people getting procedure at younger ages, more having both eyes repaired

ROCHESTER, Minn. — As baby boomers enter their retirement years, health care costs for complex and debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease are expected to soar. Not drawing as much attention is the likelihood of similarly rising expenses for common age-related medical procedures. A Mayo Clinic study looked at one of those — cataract surgery– and found that more people are getting the vision-improving procedure, seeking it at younger ages and having both eyes repaired within a few months, rather than only treating one eye. The demand shows no sign of leveling off, raising the need to manage costs and ensure access to appropriate cataract treatment, the researchers say.

The findings are published in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

“Cataract surgery rates are rising in all age groups between 50 and 90, but the greatest increase is in the 70- and 80-year-olds. And part of that is that our older population, or the aging baby boomers, are working longer, they want to be more active, they have more demands on their vision,” says senior author Jay Erie, M.D., a Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist. “That’s why they’re looking for surgery sooner — so that they can remain independent, remain active, continue to work.”

Cataracts can blur vision and worsen glare from lights. They can make it difficult to drive safely, perform household tasks and maintain a normal level of independence. In cataract surgery, the eye lens is removed and usually replaced with an artificial lens, without requiring a hospital stay. In the United States, age-related cataracts affect at least 22 million people and cost an estimated $6.8 billion to treat each year; the cataract caseload is expected to rise to 30 million people by 2020, the researchers noted.

Read the full article here.

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