Cataract removal is the most common surgery in the US—and now a massive new study finds the operation could be prolonging the lives of the more than 3 million Americans who get it every year, the New York Times reports. Cataracts are "clouding and discoloration of the lens of the eye." They cause fuzzy vision, trouble seeing at night, and more. According to Reuters, about half of all Americans develop cataracts by the time they're 80 years old. A 20-year study published in October in JAMA Ophthalmology looked at more than 74,000 women over the age of 65 who had cataracts and found the ones who got their cataracts removed were 60% less likely to die during the study period. There were an average of 1.5 deaths per 100 women who got the surgery per year; the average was 2.6 deaths for women who didn't get the surgery.
"Not only can cataract surgery give people a better life while they're living it, they can also live more of it," one of the study's authors, Dr. Anne Coleman, tells the Times
. Women who got cataract surgery during the study lived longer on average despite tending to be sicker overall than women in the non-surgery group. Coleman has a few theories on why that is: Improved vision allows women to be more active, avoid accidents and injuries, and correctly take their medication. "It's important to get the best vision a person can have," Coleman says. There are limits to the study, most noticeably that it only included women, and its authors say more research is needed, according to a press release
. (A woman's eye discomfort had a shocking cause