A recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology has demonstrated in older women a correlation between having cataract surgery and a decrease in death rate from all causes.
The data comes from a prospective longitudinal study called the Women’s Health Initiative. This study involved women 65 years or older and collected data from Jan. 1, 1993, until Dec. 31, 2015.
In the study, there were 74,044 women who had been identified with a cataract and within that group 41,735 had undergone cataract surgery during the study time period.
The results showed that of those in the group who had cataract surgery, the mortality - or death - rate was 1.52 deaths per 100 person years. That means that in any given year if you took 100 women who had cataract surgery about 1.52 died in that year. The mortality rate in the women who did not have cataract surgery was 2.56 deaths per 100 person years. Those numbers mean that women who had cataract surgery were 40% LESS LIKELY to die in any given year than women who did not have surgery.
An important aspect of this study is that the authors accounted for several reasons that might have increased the death rate in the non-cataract surgery group. They adjusted for issues such as smoking, alcohol use, Body Mass Index (a measure of a degree of excess weight), and physical activity. Controlling for those factors means that the higher death rate in the women who did not have cataract surgery cannot be explained or blamed on them having a higher rate of smoking, alcohol use, being overweight or being less physically active.
Although the authors excluded any of those above factors for the mortality difference they did not have any specific reasons as to why this difference exists. There just may be some inherent reason why having better vision leads to a healthier existence and therefore a lower risk of death.
Why are these results important? They demonstrate that there may be an additional benefit to having cataract surgery besides the improved vision (which is enough of a benefit on its own) as it may also help you to live a longer more enjoyable life.
Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.
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