there is no evidence that having cataract surgery will make you more likely to develop dry or wet AMD if you don’t already have it.

In patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the development of cataracts can only complicate already challenged vision. The question becomes, does having cataract surgery to restore some clear vision if you already have macular degeneration make sense? The answer is probably yes … but there are some considerations to keep in mind.

What Research Reveals

Even with serious retinal problems, cataract surgery may be beneficial if performed by an experienced and skilled doctor, and the conclusion among top ophthalmologist is that it can be undertaken with reasonable certainty of success. One study showed that those patients who had cataract surgery did not have a higher risk of progressing to more advanced forms of macular degeneration, when compared to those who did not have cataract surgery.

The Cloudy Cataract

When the normally transparent lens of the eye becomes opaque it is called a cataract. When this happens, patients experience symptoms such as blurriness, light sensitivity, glare, distortion, and fading of colors and vision. Cataracts are very common in older adults affecting half of all people between the ages of 65-75, with the trend increasing from there with age. Surgery is a remarkably successful procedure to remedy vision issues caused by cataracts, with a success rate of up to 95 percent. To qualify for cataract surgery, patients with macular degeneration need to be evaluated first, to determine if the procedure will improve vision.

Which is the greater culprit, cataracts, or macular degeneration?

Sadly, most people who have a lot of damage to their retina from macular degeneration won’t experience much or any vision improvement from cataract surgery. To make that determination the ophthalmologist first examines the retina, which is also photographed to assess its condition. At the same time, a determination is made as to how cloudy the lens is and how much vision is being blocked. They will also check current vision to see if a change in the eyeglass prescription or even low vision magnifiers can improve vision, before recommending cataract surgery.

Although cataract surgery with AMD likely will not restore vision for up-close tasks, removing the cataract will allow more light to enter the eye. But this may not be enough to ensure good central vision when a clear lens and a healthy retina are needed for sharp vision.

Does Having Cataract Surgery Make Macular Degeneration Worse?

Depending on the type of AMD the patient has, cataract surgery may not be advisable. Patients with the “dry” form of AMD have a good chance of receiving benefit from cataract surgery. However, for patients with the “wet” form, the benefits of cataract surgery are not so certain. Cataract surgery causes inflammation inside the eye, which in theory could make wet AMD worse, but studies on the subject have not yet demonstrated whether or not it might be more or less harmful.

The good news is that there is no evidence that having cataract surgery will cause a person to develop dry or wet AMD when the condition is not already present. For those struggling with both vision loss from AMD and cataracts, studies have shown that cataract surgery can improve vision in those who are candidates for the procedure.

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