Q: My 87-year-old mother has a cataract in one eye and is developing another in the other. Her doctor says she should have surgery, but at her age, I'm worried about the operation. What's your advice?—Edie C., Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
A: If her overall health is good, the surgery should not only improve her quality of life but could extend it as well. A new study based on data from the Women's Health Initiative found that cataract surgery was "associated with decreased risk for all-cause mortality." "All cause" means everything from cardiovascular disease to cancer.
The team of researchers, assembled at UCLA and including docs from across the U.S., recently published their findings in JAMA Ophthalmology. They looked at more than 20 years of data that included 74,000 women 65 and older, 40,000 of whom had cataracts.
The scientists found that seeing an ophthalmologist and maintaining your vision (cataract surgery) was associated with better cognitive function and a longer life. One obvious reason is that an older person's risk of falling is greatly reduced with improved vision. Falls are the leading cause of death among people 65 and older, accounting for around 9,500 deaths annually. Also, when you can see better, you're happier, more active, more able to read, play games and interact with the world—all fuel for keeping the body healthy and the brain sharp.
So for your mom, the next step is to find a good eye surgeon. We suggest getting referrals from her doctor and friends who have had the procedure done; then talk to the surgeons. Ask about their complication rate. Even though the procedure has an overall success rate above 98 percent, there are risks. In the U.S., the lifetime risk of a detached retina as a complication is about 1 percent. That number rises to about 2 percent if there is some cloudiness on the lens post-surgery that's cleaned up with YAG laser capsulotomy. But chances are Mom will sail through with flying colors—that she'll be able to see!
Q: Last week I had some oysters at a restaurant and got really sick. A friend of mine who's allergic to shellfish said that's what happens to her if she eats clams or shrimp. I'm 45 years old; could I have developed a food allergy this late in life?—Yu L., Jamestown, New York
A: A few things could have happened; you ate a "bad" oyster; you've developed a food intolerance; or you really do have a food allergy. That last option is probably the least likely, but it's possible.
Just recently at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston, research was presented that showed almost half of people with food allergies developed them later in life.
Overall, the incidence of food allergies in adults is rising, and it's rising at twice the rate for Asians, blacks and Hispanics as it is for whites. So it's not just kids who find that everything from peanuts to eggs trigger an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions can include: tingling in the mouth, nausea and vomiting; swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat; hives, blisters and rash; or anaphylaxis, a life-threatening medical emergency requiring an epinephrine injection.
To be safe, our advice is to see an allergist ASAP to find out if you're allergic. You don't want to risk having a severe or even life-threatening reaction next time you have a shrimp cocktail. The tests are not intrusive, just a pin-prick test, and in many cases the specialist can tell you exactly what you're allergic to. Then the allergist can tailor a food plan for you that will eliminate the risks and let you continue to eat healthy foods (like omega-3-rich salmon and trout) and dodge bivalves and shellfish if necessary.
To find an allergist near you, go to the AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org and use ACAAI's allergist locator to find a board-certified physician.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.