A widely prescribed type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were reported to increase the risk for developing cataracts among seniors as early as 2010. More recent studies focusing on the risk of cataract formation associated with certain antidepressants and examined two population-based studies from Canada and the United States. The results suggested a higher incidence of cataract among the examined populations. This larger study from 2017 of all the available data confirmed the results that antidepressants plays a role in the development of cataracts among seniors.

Antidepressants and Cataracts

Seniors who take SSRI antidepressants may be more likely to develop cataracts, by about 15 percent or 22,000 cataract cases in the U.S. The study assessed data for nearly 19,000 people age 65 or older, all of whom also had cardiovascular disease. Their records were compared to about 190,000 controls.The effect was strongest for three SSRIs: Luvox (fluvoxamine) increased risk by 39 percent, Effexor (venlafaxine) by 33 percent and Paxil (paroxetine) by 23 percent. The greater risk was only associated with the current use of such medications, not prior use.

Although, some antidepressants did not appear to increase cataract risk in the original study, and researchers were uncertain as to why this might be the case. “The eye’s lens has serotonin receptors, and animal studies have shown that excess serotonin can make the lens opaque and lead to cataract formation,” one researcher said. “If our findings are confirmed in future studies, doctors and patients should consider cataract risk when prescribing some SSRIs for seniors,” he added.

Additional Risk Factors

Earlier research linked beta blocker medications and oral and inhaled steroids to higher cataract risk, and a Swedish study suggests that women’s hormone replacement therapy may also raise risk. A follow-up study conducted in 2017 supported the evidence of a significant positive association between antidepressants use and risk of cataract.

Article source: Science Daily, American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Some antidepressants may bump up cataract risk.” June 2010. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601153257.htm

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