Improve Your Vision, Extend Your Life

Cataract surgery may lead to longer life for patients with vision problems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Getting cataract surgery to improve your vision may also help to extend your life.

A recent study found that patients who had cataract surgery to improve their visual impairment (difficulty seeing) from cataracts (cloudy lens) had a significantly lower risk of death compared to patients who did not have cataract surgery.

The authors suggested that this lower risk of death may be a result of improved physical and emotional health.

"Talk to your doctor about treatment for vision problems."

This study was led by Jie Jin Wang, MMed, PhD, of the Center for Vision Research, Department of Ophthalmology and Westmead Millennium Institute at the University of Sydney. The research team examined whether there was a relationship between cataract surgery and long-term survival in a group of older adults in Sydney, Australia.

Data was analyzed from 349 participants in the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Study participants were at least 49 years old, and had both cataracts and visual impairment or had cataract surgery before the beginning of the study. The researchers followed up with participants at five and 10 years after the study ended.

Several factors were taken into account that could affect lifespan, including age, sex, smoking status, body mass index (a measure of height and weight), home ownership, poor self-rated health, poor mobility and certain chronic conditions.

The researchers found that patients who had their vision problems corrected with cataract surgery had a 40 percent lower risk of death over a 15-year time period than patients with vision problems who did not have cataract surgery. This lower risk of death remained significant after all of the above factors were taken into account.

Some study limitations that were noted were the relatively small sample and the difference in the number of participants who returned to the follow-up visits between those who had and did not have surgery.

The study authors noted that their findings support previous research that has shown that cataract surgery is connected to improved survival for older persons. While a specific explanation of why this relationship may exist is still not known, the authors noted that the lower risk of death may be a result of enhanced physical and emotional well-being, and that it may also give older adults greater confidence in living on their own after surgery. 

Christopher Quinn, OD, FAAO, a board certified optometrist and current president of OMNI Eye Services, told dailyRx News, "This excellent study confirms what eye doctors have known for a long time. Not only does correcting visual impairment significantly improve quality of life but also can have a dramatic impact on survival.

"Cataracts are one of the most common causes of visual impairment in the older population. The success rate of modern cataract surgical technique is extraordinarily high and the risk of complications from surgery is low," said Dr. Quinn, who was not involved in this study.

"This study proves that surgical intervention for cataracts can be lifesaving. A comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor can help properly diagnose cataracts and differentiate vision loss from a cataract from visual loss from other causes," he said.

This study was published in the September issue of Ophthalmology.

Some of the study authors reported potential conflicts of interest with companies including Novartis and Bayer.

Review Date: 
September 5, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013