Could Cataract Surgery by Cataract Surgeon Dr. James Lockwood in Aiken Prolong Your Life?

Another benefit of having cataract surgery by Aiken cataract surgeon, James C. Lockwood, MD is that cataract surgery can actually prolong your life. Here’s how: A 20-year study conducted among 74,044 women aged 65 with cataracts found a 60 percent lower risk of death among the 41,735 women who had their cataracts removed. 

These findings were published online in JAMA Ophthalmology in October, 2017 by Dr. Anne L. Coleman and colleagues at the Stein Eye Institute of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, with Dr. Victoria L. Tseng as lead author. Many of the same cataract surgical techniques reported by doctors in the study are also utilized by Dr. Lockwood, who is based out of The Eye Guys’ Aiken, SC office.

“Not only can cataract surgery enhance a patient’s quality of life, but it can also help them live longer by preventing common risks associated with poor vision before cataract surgery,” Dr. Lockwood pointed out.  The women in the study who underwent cataract surgery lived longer even though, overall, they were sicker to begin with — as a group, they had more heart attacks, chronic pulmonary disease, peptic ulcers and glaucoma than those who did not have surgery.

Previous studies had shown a lower mortality risk in men as well as women following cataract surgery, Dr. Coleman said. The new study, while confirming the earlier findings of fewer deaths in women, was also large enough to show just how the operation can extend life. Those who had cataract surgery subsequently had reduced risks of death from cardiovascular, pulmonary, neurological and infectious diseases, as well as cancer and falls (including hip fractures).


Dr. Lockwood explained that when people can see better, they also feel more comfortable driving, socializing, and their hobbies. “Modern-day cataract surgery also improves visual contrast so that patients can get back to enjoying working, reading, and seeing their drive 300 yards down the fairway!  My goal is to optimize each patient’s vision after cataract surgery, which can also help prevent falls—a leading cause of death among the elderly.” Dr. Lockwood added.


Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed operation in the United States, with more than three million Americans having cataracts removed each year, according to the organization Prevent Blindness America. During traditional cataract surgery at The Eye Guys, the cloudy cataract lens is softened, broken up and gently removed and an artificial intraocular lens is then inserted in its place. After about half an hour in recovery, patients can go home. 


Dr. Lockwood explained that a cataract is simply the clouding and discoloration of the natural lens of the eye. The natural lens is clear at birth and is located behind the iris (colored part of the eye).  The lens bends light to focus clearly on the retina at the back of the eye. “When cataracts develop, patients find that they need more light to read, images get blurry and they become more sensitive to glare, especially at night when driving or from early morning sun,” Dr. Lockwood said.  Many patients complain that they do not feel comfortable driving at night because of the glare. 

Cataracts typically form gradually with age, and anyone who lives long enough is likely to develop them. Cataracts are the most frequent cause of vision loss in people over 40. Common risk factors include exposure to radiation (ultraviolet light such as sunlight or radiation therapy for cancer treatment), smoking, diabetes, prolonged use of steroids (oral or nasal), extreme nearsightedness and family history of congenital cataracts.


Wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays and a hat are important to delay cataract formation.  Dr. Lockwood also strongly recommends smoking cessation to delay cataract formation and to prevent macular degeneration.


Although there are some risks associated with removing cataracts, “it’s probably the most successful surgery we have — it has a 98 percent success rate,” Dr. Coleman said. Potential complications, albeit rare, include infection, inflammation, retinal detachment and double or shadow vision.

At The Eye Guys in Aiken, SC and Augusta, GA, there have also been extraordinary advances in cataract surgery in the past few decades. Earlier, the surgery was done under general anesthesia and patients spent nights in the hospital and weeks in bed recovering. Today, cataract surgery at our outpatient Ambulatory Surgical Center in Augusta where patients typically spend about three hours total for their surgery.  The fifteen minute cataract procedure is done with a local and IV anesthetic and the incisions are much smaller, often requiring no stitches. One eye is operated upon at a time, with the second one typically done about two to three weeks later, and recuperation is fast.

Specialists now also recognize the wisdom of not waiting until a cataract is “ripe” and vision seriously diminished before urging patients to consider surgery. Dr. Lockwood said, “The longer you wait, the more difficult the operation and slower vision recovery. It’s easier to remove cataracts before they become too dense.” This is why patients in Aiken, SC and Augusta, GA are starting to have their cataracts removed at a younger age. “There is no reason to wait until cataracts cause your quality of life to be greatly diminished,” said Dr. Lockwood. A simple comprehensive eye exam and cataract evaluation each year after age 55 can help us determine if cataract surgery can improve your vision and help restore your life.”

Patients are advised not to drive on the first day after surgery and to avoid heavy lifting, bending or straining for one week. To prevent infection and inflammation, Dr. Lockwood recommends the Imprimis combination drop that has an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and steroid all in one convenient bottle that patients use three times per day until the end of the bottle (usually about four weeks).  


The artificial lenses used to replace the catarat in both Aiken, SC and Augusta, GA by The Eye Guys now come in many varieties that can be geared to a patient’s particular lifestyle, desires and medical requirements. A marathon runner or tennis player may want a different kind of lens than a book editor or someone who cooks a lot and needs near vision for recipes or reading their bible. “Our new premium intraocular lens implants (PIOLs) are a game changer for patients who would like their vision customized to their specific lifestyle,” said Dr. Lockwood. 

Most often, the artificial lenses inserted correct poor visual acuity. But patients can choose lenses that correct near as well as distance vision like the PanOptix and Vivity lenes from Alcon.  Dr. Lockwood also recommends correcting any astigmatism (irregular curavature of the patient’s cornea) at the time of cataract surgery with limbal relaxing incisions (LRIs) by the Alcon LenSx Femtosecond Laser and toric intraocular lenses.  Astigmatism leads to additional blur of images even after the cataract is removed. 

“And our new Femtosecond Laser Technology is helping make cataract surgery safer, more precise and accurate,” he said. And because the laser helps break up the cataract, making it easier to remove, there is usually less inflammation post operatively leading to faster vision recovery after cataract surgery. 


In summary, Dr. Lockwood said that people in the greater, Aiken, SC and Augusta, GA area can benefit greatly from having their cataracts removed and a intraocular lens replacement procedure. “We see patients every day right here in Aiken who are regaining their confidence to drive again at night, to renew an active lifestyle and live life to the fullest thanks to having their vision restored through modern-day cataract surgery,” he said. “I’m so thankful for the doctors and research team at the Stein Eye Institute of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles for their efforts in helping patients better understand the benefits of cataract surgery today.”  Come see Dr. Lockwood today for your cataract evaluation, right here in Aiken!