A team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) examined data of around 74,000 women with cataract from ages 65 and over. More than half of them, or about 42,000, underwent cataract surgeries. Moreover, around half of them smoked cigarettes and most of them reported drinking seven or fewer alcoholic drinks per week. The participants’ body mass indexes (BMIs) were lower than 25. The researchers drew on data from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which is a nationwide study of postmenopausal women from 50 to 79 years old in the U.S. that covered the years starting 1993 to 2015.
The findings of the study, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, showed that women who underwent cataract surgery had a 60 percent lower chance of premature death. The researchers claimed that those who had surgery for cataract had better chances of living longer because they could afford better healthcare due to their higher socioeconomic status. The UCLA study is the first to analyze the impact of cataract surgery to the risk of death in women.
“This possibility is suggested by the higher odds of cataract surgery in WHI participants who underwent routine mammography and in those with health insurance,” the researchers wrote.
Previous studies have suggested that undergoing cataract surgery is linked to a smaller risk of falling and fracturing bones.
“Cataract study may improve overall functioning, which may be a potential mechanism to explain the association with decreased mortality,” they added.
According to a report of the same study by Health.USNews.com, results revealed that risk of death due to accidents, lung and heart diseases, cancer, infectious diseases, and neurological disorders were 37 to 69 percent lower.
The authors of the study noted that although their study is limited to women, eye complications tend to occur more frequently among women than in men. In addition, they said that further research is needed to identify the effect cataract surgery has on the death risk of women from deadly diseases.
“Further study of the interplay of cataract surgery, systemic disease, and disease-related mortality would be informative for improved patient care,” the study indicated. (Related: 10 Foods That Help To Prevent Cataracts.)
Cataract surgery rationing and delaying by the National Health Service (NHS)
In a report by The Telegraph, cataract patients in England are becoming almost blind because they are being forced to wait for about 15 months to get cataract surgery. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) told the NHS should stop rationing cataract surgery or delaying it. The guidance said that the NHS should provide patients with surgeries when they feel their quality of life is affected by their poor vision, instead of relying on vision tests.
“This is a condition which can severely impair a person’s vision and can lead to a decreased quality of life as daily tasks such as driving or going to the shops seem impossible,” expressed Mike Burdon, who is a consultant ophthalmic surgeon and the chairman of the NICE.
Fast facts on cataracts
Cataract, as defined by the National Eye Institute, is a common eye problem where the lens in the eye becomes cloudy and affects the vision of a person. In the U.S., 17 percent or 24.4 million Americans aged 40 and above have cataract.
The most common symptoms of cataract include cloudy or blurry eyesight and colors appearing faded. Glare, headlights, lamps, or even sunlight may also suddenly seem too bright. Early warning signs of the condition are poor night vision, double vision or multiple images in one eye, and frequent prescription changes in eyeglasses or contact lenses.