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Macular Degeneration and Cataract Surgery

written by: Pepperminty • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/23/2011

Macular degeneration and cataracts are among the most common age-related vision problems. Macular degeneration refers to the deterioration of the retinal area of the eye, while cataracts cause cloudy lens. Some medical studies suggest a link between macular degeneration and cataract surgery.

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    Macular Degeneration Overview

    Macular degeneration, also called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), impairs your central vision. This condition destroys the macula, the part of the eye that enables you to see fine details. Without sharp central vision, it is nearly impossible to see clearly and perform tasks such as driving and reading. In some people, the condition progresses so slowly that vision changes are barely noticeable. Others experience rapid macular degeneration that immediately causes vision loss. In the United States, approximately 1.75 million people suffer from this serious eye condition.

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    Macular Degeneration and Cataract Surgery Connection

    The link between macular degeneration and cataract surgery is debatable: some medical professionals assert that there is a connection, while others claim no such connection exists. People who have undergone cataract surgery are 1.7 times more likely to develop macular degeneration, reports the American Journal of Ophthalmology. This increased risk may be attributed to the eye's inability to protect itself from blue light waves after cataract surgery. Blue light waves are believed to cause or accelerate macular degeneration. The connection between AMD and cataract surgery is sometimes attributed to inflammation at the incision site.

    On the other hand, macular degeneration and cataract surgery may not be directly related. Instead, cataract symptoms and complications may make it impossible to properly diagnose AMD. Once cataract surgery has been performed and cloudy eye lenses are removed, optometrists can recognize any other problems including macular degeneration. In addition, AMD and cataract surgery may seem related because macular degeneration and cataracts have the same risk factors.

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    Others Risk Factors

    In addition to cataract surgery, there are several factors that increase your risk for developing AMD. Macular degeneration tends to run in families. People of the caucasian race, especially females, have a high AMD risk factor. Other factors include smoking, obesity and consuming a high-fat diet. The condition is mostly seen in people over the age of 75.

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    Prevention and Treatment

    Although the exact cause of macular degeneration is not currently known, there are some steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy and preserve your sight. Protecting your eyes from harsh sunlight can reduce your chance of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. Wear sunglasses or a hat when outdoors in the summer sun. Very limited treatment is available for people who have advanced forms of AMD. Lost vision cannot be restored. If you are at risk for AMD, your doctor may prescribe a combination of antioxidants, vitamins, zinc and other supplements to help control the condition.

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    All About Vision: Age-Related Macular Degeneration

    American Academy of Ophthalmology: Cataract Surgery and Macular Degeneration

    John Hopkins Health Alert: Cataract Surgery and Macular Degeneration

    Med Page Today: No Increase in Macular Degeneration after Cataract Surgery

    The Eye Digest: Macular Degeneration Info

    Medline Plus: Macular Degeneration