For older adults, cataract surgery is an important procedure for restoring vision. A study that included 12 eye clinics in Alabama suggests it may also be important for preventing car crashes.

“Patients with a history of traffic crash are particularly prone to future traffic crashes. The good news is that we found a 9% reduced risk of serious traffic crash after cataract surgery compared to before cataract surgery. This safety gain is substantial and equals the benefits of an airbag.” Matthew B. Schlenker, MD, MSc, FRCSC, told Primary Care Optometry

Another study illustrates the effect of worsening vision on cognitive functions in older adults. The results show the importance of maintaining good vision throughout life.

The “Impact of cataract surgery on motor vehicle crash involvement by older adults” shows that cataract patients who underwent cataract surgery and intraocular lens (IOL) implantation had half the rate of crashes during the follow-up period opposed to the non-surgical patients. Cataract surgery thus may have a previously undocumented benefit for older driver safety, reducing subsequent crash rate.

The link between visual impairment and cognitive functioning

A 2018 Salisbury Eye Study of 2,520 older US adults in Maryland may lend credence to these findings.

This Canadian longitudinal study was to determine how cognitive function and visual impairment are associated over time with older adults. Visual acuity (VA) was measured using Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study charts, and cognitive status was assessed using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).

The eight-year study started with 2,520 individuals. The mean age was 73.5 – 58% women and 26% African American. The analysis showed that the standardized effect size of VA on MMSE is larger relative to the reverse effect, demonstrating VA is likely the driving force in these dynamic associations.

In a population-based sample of older US adults, visual impairment measured at distance is associated with declining cognitive function both cross-sectionally and longitudinally over time with worsening vision having a stronger association with declining cognition than the reverse.

Worsening vision in older adults may be adversely associated with future cognitive functioning. All this suggests that good vision is an important strategy for mitigating age-related cognitive declines and fender benders.

Sources: National Institute for Health, JAMA Ophthalmology