Antidepressants develop Cataract Risk
In the United States, 75% of people over age 60 have some sign of cataracts, or clouding of the lens of the eye. Cigarette smoking, certain medications, eye injuries, sunlight, diabetes, and even obesity can increase the risk of cataracts. Now a new Canadian study suggests a possible association between certain antidepressants and development of cataracts.
For the study, published in Ophthalmology, researchers examined medical data on over 187,000 Canadians older than 65 with existing cardiovascular disease. Among the 18,784 users of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the risk of cataracts was elevated by 15%. Risk of the eye disease was highest with fluvoxamine use (39%), followed by venlafaxine (33%), which is technically a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Paroxetine was also associated with cataracts among those who had cataract surgery.
This study is the first to show a possible association between SSRIs and cataracts. But other factors, such as heavy smoking, can’t be ruled out. Future studies are needed to clarify if certain antidepressants indeed raise risk.
“When you look at the trade-offs of these drugs, the benefits of treating depression—which can be life-threatening—still outweigh the risk of developing cataracts, which are treatable and relatively benign,” says Mahyar Etminan, lead author of the article and an assistant professor in the department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.
In the meantime, take these steps to help prevent or detect cataracts:
wear sunglasses outdoors and
see your eye care professional regularly for vision exams