Cataract Surgery and Age-related Macular Degeneration

These two are the most common causes of impairment of vision in the eye – cataract formation and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Both eye conditions cause a decrease or loss of vision that often occur simultaneously in those over age 50. The macula is a tissue that is located in the centre of the retina. Degeneration of the macula occurs most often after the age 60 and is therefore termed “age-related macular degeneration” (AMD).

Cataract surgery in people with age-related macular degeneration

Cataract surgery is an effective treatment for vision loss caused by cataract formation in the eye. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition commonly seen in people over 60, who smoke, are obese, have unhealthy diets, high blood pressure or do not exercise. The macula is a light-sensitive layer of tissue in the centre of the retina, at the back of the eye. This tissue is responsible for straight-ahead vision.

There are two types of AMD: Dry AMD and Wet AMD.

If anti-angiogenic agents are successfully injected into the eye then wet AMD can be arrested or slowed down, however an early detection of wet AMD is important. An early symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines appear to look wavy.

Early symptoms of dry AMD include blurry vision, the need for more light for reading, and even face recognition becomes a challenge. If there is a blurred spot in the center of vision, chances are there is an advanced case of dry AMD.

Dry AMD cannot be treated at present, but it can be delayed by leading a healthy lifestyle and taking anti-oxidant vitamins.
It is also a known fact that smoking, obesity, diets rich in unsaturated fats and carbohydrates, lack of exercise and high blood pressure all increase the chance of having AMD.

If AMD (‘wet’ form) is noted in the eye soon after cataract surgery, those with AMD may improve vision without worsening of AMD. However, we still do not know for sure whether cataract surgery is beneficial or harmful in people with AMD. Eye doctors will have to make the best clinical judgment they can until controlled trials are conducted and the research results are published.

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