Cataracts surgery in Canada: What you need to know according to the Canadian Journal of Optometry

OTTAWA, May 19, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A supplement to the June issue of the Canadian Journal of Optometry will feature the latest information on cataracts and cataract surgery.

"Modern cataract surgery is a remarkable achievement," says guest editor Rick Potvin who is a Canadian optometrist and research consultant. "Incisions around
2mm in size can be used to remove the cataract and implant a replacement lens, providing an immediate improvement in vision."

Technology has made cataract surgery unrecognizable from the days when surgery meant lengthy hospital stays, a long recovery period and substandard vision after surgery, says Dr. Potvin.

The impact of a "maturing" population

The supplement is timely. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries in Canada today; the 175,000 surgeries performed in 2014 in Ontario alone are expected to rise to 250,000 cases by 2026 – a 43% increase. This is driven primarily by an aging, or perhaps more correctly a 'maturing' population, as modern seniors seem to show fewer signs of slowing down than in previous generations.

Improved health care and generally healthier lifestyles have left their mark. In 1991, 11.5% of the Canadian population was estimated to be 65 years of age or older. In 2011 the figure was 14.4%, and it is estimated that by 2031 one in five Canadians will be over the age of 65.

Not your grandma's cataract surgery

In the surgery suite, high frequency laser systems can now be used to perform some steps of the operation, bringing a previously-impossible level of precision to the surgery.

Some ophthalmologists have described this as the greatest innovation since the introduction of ultrasound pulses for the removal of cataract which was introduced in the 1970s.

Technological advancements have not been restricted to the surgery. New materials and new optical designs have generated a range of options for the replacement lens (the 'intraocular lens' or IOL) that is placed in the eye after surgery.

"For the vast majority of spectacle-wearing patients, their prescription will be much reduced after surgery, as the correction in their glasses can be calculated into this IOL," says Dr. Potvin. "For appropriate patients, there are lenses that can correct astigmatism, and several varieties that may reduce or eliminate the need for reading glasses."

While not all patients are suitable for all lenses, and insurance coverage can vary, Dr. Potvin says the lens options available today give cataract patients a chance to consider what kind of vision they'd like after surgery, with a high likelihood their needs can be met.

The dangers of untreated cataracts

Technology aside, there is another important contributing factor to updating optometrists on the state of cataracts in Canada; the impact of cataracts on their patients. With the exception of uncorrected refractive error, cataracts are a leading cause of vision loss.

"Untreated, cataracts are known to decrease personal safety, lower a patient's independence in performing daily activities, and are associated with increased mortality," says Dr. Potvin.

Living with cataracts has been shown to have a negative effect on mobility and more than doubles the likelihood of an at-fault car accident. With an aging demographic that embraces an active lifestyle, the potential impact of cataract surgery is high. In a recently completed survey for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) a majority of respondents who had cataract surgery were surprised at how much their vision had improved, and wished they had had surgery sooner.

The supplement provides important information regarding these new surgical and lens options to Canadian optometrists. Another article suggests ways in which Canadian optometrists can work to ensure patients have the best possible experience with regard to their cataract surgery. Finally, the important issue of patient choice is outlined. Together, these articles provide a helpful foundation for preparing, and caring for, today's cataract patient.

"The cataract supplement provides practitioners with a handy guide to the many technological advances that have occurred in cataract surgery as well as the options for intraocular implants that are offered to patients," says Dr. Ralph Chou, Editor-in-Chief of the CJO. "Dr. Potvin and his co-authors have done a fine job of assembling the information along with some important clinic-legal points about patient care and counselling."

The Canadian Journal of Optometry is the official peer-reviewed journal of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, and is published by Andrew John Publishing, Inc.


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