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Cataract Surgery Does Not Appear Associated With Worsening Of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

November 11, 2009

Adapted from the JAMA and Archives Journals

Age-related macular degeneration does not appear to progress at a higher rate among individuals who have had surgery to treat cataract, contrary to previous reports that treating one cause of vision loss worsens the other, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among Americans age 65 and older, according to background information in the article. Surgery is the most effective and common vision-restoring treatment for cataract. "Because both conditions are strongly age-related, many individuals with cataract also have AMD," the authors write. "There has been a long-standing controversy among clinicians as to whether cataract surgery is contraindicated in eyes with [the dry form of] AMD. A major concern has been whether cataract surgery increases the risk of progression to [the wet form of] AMD (an advanced form of the disease involving formation of new blood vessels) in eyes at risk of progression such as those with intermediate AMD."

Li Ming Dong, Ph.D., of Stony Brook University School of Medicine, N.Y., and colleagues studied eyes of 108 individuals with the dry form of AMD who underwent preoperative assessments for cataract surgery between 2000 and 2002. Photographs of the retina were taken and fluorescein angiography, which uses a special dye to investigate blood vessels in the eye, was performed. A total of 86 evaluated eyes had dry AMD before surgery, and 71 had follow-up assessments between one week and one year after surgery.

"Our findings do not support the hypothesis that cataract surgery accelerates the progression of AMD," the researchers conclude.

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