Cataracts, Macular Degeneration Increase Risk of Death

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MONDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- People over age 49 who have cataracts or macular degeneration are more likely to die within 11 years than their contemporaries without the eye conditions, a new study found.

Sudha Cugati of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues analyzed data from 3,654 individuals age 49 and older who enrolled in the Blue Mountains Eye Study between 1992 and 1994. The researchers examined the participants for cataracts and macular degeneration, two leading causes of overall visual impairment.

A cataract is a condition in which the eyes lens is covered by a film that reduces sight. Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the macula, an area at the back of the retina that sharpens vision, deteriorates over time.

After an average of 11 years, 1,051 of the study participants had died. Nearly half of those with any visual impairment died, compared to one in three without impairment. People with age-related macular degeneration were more likely to die than those who did not have the condition, 45.8 percent versus 33.7 percent, respectively. Likewise, people with cataracts were also at greater risk of death, 39.2 percent versus 29.5 percent.

The link held true until age 75, after which visual impairment no longer predicted early death. Writing in the July issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology, the researchers commented that both conditions are markers of biological aging and may share a similar progression with other conditions that increase the risk of early death.

More information

To learn about cataracts and macular degeneration, visit the American Foundation for the Blind.

SOURCE: Archives of Ophthalmology, news release, July 9, 2007
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