Growing older has many challenges. Our bodies slow down, we lose our flexibility and ease of mobility and our senses are dulled. Crisp eyesight becomes blurry, once-clear tones sound muffled and sense of taste is less acute. Thankfully, there are many treatments and procedures today that can enhance life for seniors. One of the most common surgeries in the United States is cataract surgery. Cataract surgery replaces a clouded lens with a clear, artificial lens called an intraocular lens.
A recent study shows that cataract surgery can help with more than just clarifying vision. It may also slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. One in every three seniors dies of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States (Source: Alzheimer’s Association).
The study compared 20 dementia patients who had also had cataract surgery to 8 dementia patients who did not have cataract surgery. Six months after the cataract surgery, the patients who had cataract surgery not only had clearer vision but also had slower decline in memory and thinking and improved behavior. The data shows that improving sensory abilities can provide wider benefits to patients as well as caregivers.
This study supports the Alzheimer’s Association’s assertion that individuals with Alzheimer’s benefit from full health care treatment. Maria Carrillo, Alzheimer’s Association vice president of medical and scientific relations, responded to the study saying, “Too-common attitudes such as, ‘There’s no need for extra care’ or ‘Why put them through all of that?’ are not justified and are bad medical practice.”
Carillo followed up by saying that it is important to be thoughtful and deliberate when considering surgery or other procedures for Alzheimer’s patients, but we should not assume that medical procedures are too risky. If quality of life for individuals with dementia can be improved by surgeries that restore sensory abilities, it is certainly valuable to consider those procedures on a case-by-case basis (Source: Health).