A recent study reports that there is no link between cataract surgery and the development of macular degeneration. The Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) was a large randomized prospective trial that examined the chance of developing macular degeneration. This was a prospective study where patients were examined before and afer cataract surgery for the presence of macular degeneration. This is the first study, and perhaps the largest, that finds cataract surgery is safe for patients worried about macular degeneration. Emily Chew, M.D., and her colleagues at the National Eye Institute, examined the data of over 4500 patients who were examined every six months for up to 11 years.
What does this mean? As a retinal specialist, I commonly examine patients that do not improve after successful cataract surgery. Many times the culprit is macular degeneration, that is, patients fail to improve after cataract surgery due to macular degeneration. For years, there has been an unproven feeling that cataract surgery makes macular degeneration worse. Remember, there are two eye diseases that increase with age; cataracts (okay, maybe not a disease) and macular degeneration. To find both in the same patient is not surprising, yet it is truly frustrating to the patient who just had cataract surgery and can not see.
I would recommend that we take the conclusions of the AREDS trial at face value. There is no relationship between cataract surgery and macular degeneration. From a practical side, if you are worried about macular degeneration and are anticipating cataract surgery, get a second opinion from a retinal specialist.
Read the article.
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Retina Specialist/ Ophthalmologist