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When is the right time to have cataract surgery?

At what stage should cataracts be removed? Simply put, if you are experiencing major vision problems and have been told you have cataracts, it may be time to consider surgery. 

Having a cataract surgically removed is critical for vision; if left untreated, the condition can lead to blindness. Still, the “right time” to surgically address cataracts may vary from person to person.

Is surgery available in every stage of cataract progression? Yes, but there are some important advantages and disadvantages to be aware of in each stage.

Surgery for early stages of cataracts

Some early signs of cataracts can occur with dysfunctional lens syndrome (DLS) — including glare and halos at night. This condition has been thought of as part of a pre-cataract stage, and patients who experience it are able to opt for cataract surgery as soon as symptoms show.

One of the most common complaints of those experiencing an immature cataract is trouble seeing at night, but removing a cataract in the early stage can help eliminate this problem, making driving easier, safer and more comfortable.

SEE RELATED: Cataract symptoms

Surgery for moderate cataract stages

If you’ve been diagnosed with a cataract in a moderate stage, there are a few options your eye doctor might recommend to help you cope with symptoms before having cataract surgery, such as prescribing stronger corrective lenses or using brighter lights to read. However, cataracts will eventually need to be surgically removed in order to be treated completely.

Many doctors recommend having cataracts removed as soon as they begin interrupting your daily activities. Depending on the progression of your cataract, surgery may either be needed immediately, or at some point in the future.

Surgery for mature cataracts

Cataracts may become more difficult to be removed once they become mature. This is why many doctors advise patients to have surgery earlier on, as soon as vision is affected on a regular basis.

Removing a mature cataract can also lead to risks during surgery, which can make the recovery process longer and more involved. 

Ultimately, a cataract surgeon will be able to help you weigh the benefits and risks associated with cataract surgery — regardless of the stage your cataract is in.

Financial considerations for cataract surgery

Something to keep in mind when scheduling your cataract surgery is the financial obligation it comes with. 

Cataract surgery is considered “medically necessary” by some insurance companies (like Medicare) only when certain conditions are met. The service is often covered only after a cataract has caused visual acuity to be reduced to below 20/40 — the legal vision requirement for driving in most states.

Be sure to review your insurance policy, either with an insurance agent or your eye doctor’s staff, to understand if the procedure is covered on your plan or if you’ll have to pay out of pocket. Should the latter be the case, surgery can be done as soon as your doctor approves it.

Does cataract surgery hurt? How long does it take? Read more about cataract surgery here.

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