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More Americans Getting Cataract Surgery

FRIDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- The number of Americans getting cataract surgery is on the rise as active baby boomers are getting the procedure earlier and often having both eyes repaired, a new study finds.

"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," study senior author Dr. Jay Erie, a Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist, said in a Mayo news release. "That's why they're looking for surgery sooner -- so that they can remain independent, remain active, continue to work."

The researchers looked at data from a U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study to determine the number of cataract surgeries in Olmsted County, Minn., between 2005 and 2011.

The findings showed that cataract surgery increased steadily, reaching a rate of 1,100 per 100,000 people in 2011. Sixty percent of people who had cataract surgery on one eye returned within three months to have it performed on the other eye. That's a significant increase from a study that covered 1998 to 2004.

Significant increases in cataract surgery over the past 32 years occurred in all age groups, except among those aged 90 and older. The average annual rate of cataract surgery was much higher for women than for men, according to the study in the Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

The researchers said their findings raise questions about treatment costs and the resources needed to meet demand. For example, Medicare typically covers cataract surgery for its patients and cataract surgery on a Medicare patient costs about $3,000 per eye.

"Ophthalmology and ophthalmologists and patients and payers are beginning to look at ways they can weigh the visual benefits to the individual patient against the cost to society as a whole and how can we maximize the outcome and minimize the cost to society?" Erie said.

More information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has more about cataract surgery.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, Oct. 9, 2013

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