Historically, a cataract was ready to remove when it was “ripe.” This antiquated term was used to delay surgery until the cataract was advanced. Thankfully, that era has passed. Today, wonderful improvements in both cataract surgery and lens implants, including laser cataract surgery, routinely provide excellent vision, (often without glasses, depending upon the implant).
Medicare pays for cataract surgery when vision is 20/40 or worse. If cataracts interfere with something important, such as driving or reading, Medicare may pay for surgery earlier. The key is that the symptoms must be caused by the cataract, interfere with important life activities and must not be correctable by simpler means such as new glasses.
If your vision is worse than 20/40 but meets your needs, a delay in cataract surgery usually will not harm your eye or make the surgery more difficult. Medicare has recently found that cataract surgery by itself reduces the risk of falling and breaking a hip by 20%. Do not wait so long that your cataract is visible or “ripe” in the old sense and risk breaking a hip. Instead, see your eye doctor regularly to monitor your cataract, and when the time is right, enjoy your best possible vision for the rest of your life.