Using data from the national Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial, researchers examined the medical data of more than 74,000 women ages 65 and older who had cataracts. For reasons not clear to the researchers, the nearly 42,000 women who had surgery to replace their clouded lenses were more likely to live longer than the remaining women who didn’t have the simple procedure. They calculated that 1.5 women in 100 died annually among those who had previous cataract surgery as opposed to 2.6 women who died among women who didn’t have surgery.
One possible reason for the discrepancy, suggest the researchers, might be a tendency in women who undergo surgery to take better care of their health overall; they could also have better access to healthcare. Poor vision might also lead to more life-threatening falls and accidents.
WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW: Because of the observational nature of the study, which was reported last year in JAMA Ophthalmology, the researchers couldn’t directly connect cataract surgery with a reduced risk of premature death. Other unknown factors as well may be at play to drive the results. However, past studies have made similar connections, and vision impairment has been shown to affect quality of life.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Get your vision checked regularly since it might affect your overall health. If poor vision from cataracts is affecting your activities, ask your ophthalmologist about the benefits of surgery. Cataract surgery is remarkably safe and considered to be the most effective surgical procedure in all of medicine.