Medicine Today: Cataract surgery benefits more than eyes

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Mandawat
Mandawat

As we grow older, our vision often worsens.

What if our vision could be restored with a relatively simple procedure? For patients with cataracts, it can.

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the benefits of cataract surgery extend beyond better vision – it also results in a lower risk of hip fractures in the elderly.

Each eye has a clear lens that focuses light and allows us to see. As we age, the lens can become dull, causing a condition known as a cataract. Similar to smudged reading glasses, a dull lens in the eye results in blurry vision.

Early signs of cataracts are difficulty in driving at night, reading traffic signs or reading small words. The condition is painless and usually affects both eyes.

The treatment is replacement of the dull lens with a new clear lens, which typically results in rapid improvement in vision.

In the new study, Dr. Anne Coleman, a professor of ophthalmology at UCLA, and colleagues analyzed data on more than a million Medicare patients who were diagnosed with cataracts between 2002 and 2009. The team compared the one-year risk of hip fractures in patients who received surgery with those who did not.

After adjusting for differences in age, gender and other medical conditions, researchers found that patients who had cataract surgery, and therefore likely had better vision, had a 16 percent lower risk of hip fractures compared to those who did not receive surgery.

Dr. Coleman’s study shows that the benefits of surgery extend beyond better quality of life to include a lower risk of hip fractures.

Hip fractures in the elderly are particularly worrisome because they can cause significant bleeding and immobility and are associated with a high risk of death in the year after the fracture.

Cataract surgery is a medical success story.

ANANT MANDAWAT, A GRADUATE OF LAKESIDE HIGH SCHOOL AND YALE UNIVERSITY’S MEDICAL SCHOOL, IS A DOCTOR OF INTERNAL MEDICINE AT MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL AND HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL.


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