From 1992 to 2007, the study followed 354 individuals aged 49 years and older who had been diagnosed with vision impairment due to cataracts. Adjustments were made for a number of mortality risk factors including age, gender, diabetes, smoking, body mass index, hypertension, measures of frailty, and comorbid disease.
Corroborating previous research indicating that individuals with visual impairment were likely to have a greater mortality risk than their peers with normal vision, this study continues to suggest that healthy vision results in general good health.
The correlation between visual impairment correction and reduced mortality is not completely clear, but possible factors include improved physical and emotional well-being, greater optimism and confidence, and ability to comply with prescription medications.
Ophthalmologist Thomas Henderson, M.D., explained, “My experience matches the results of this study. Even with Alzheimer’s, the patients who get their cataracts removed do better because of increased contact with the world. Thirty years ago, I had a patient who was bilaterally blind from cataract. She was on psychiatric medication because she thought people were stealing from her and others thought she was just paranoid. I did cataract surgery giving her normal vision in both eyes. She stopped her medication because she was better oriented to the world, and the stealing stopped because she could see.”
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging and by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. To determine if you have cataracts, contact your ophthalmologist and schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam.