Blind World

Cataracts may signal a shorter life, says study.

May 10 2004.

Chicago - People with age-related eye problems such as cataracts may not live as long as those without them, perhaps because the conditions signal poorer health, according to a study released on Monday.

"Various eye disorders have been reported to be significant predictors of a shorter life span, and cataract in particular may be a sign of physiological processes that are associated with aging and death," said the article in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

In a study of of 4 753 people aged 55 to 81, people with age-related macular degeneration - a progressive condition that causes gradual vision loss - had a 41 percent higher risk of death in the average 6,5-year follow-up period than people without signs associated with the disorder.

People who had cataract surgery had a 55 percent higher risk of death than those with good vision, while those with vision worse than 20/40 in one eye had a 36 percent higher risk, said the study conducted by Dr Frederick Ferris of the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

A cataract involves the lens of the eye becoming less transparent and can cause partial blindness.

While the exact mechanisms are unclear, the article said the decreased survival rates for people with either cataracts or macular degeneration "suggests that these conditions may reflect systemic rather than only local processes."

A separate study in the same journal found extended exposure to summer sunlight in early adulthood may increase the risk for developing age-related maculopathy, an eye disorder that can cause blindness.

Age-related maculopathy is the leading cause of vision loss in older Americans, and few therapies exist to treat the disease, the study noted. The condition is characterised by the growth of abnormal blood vessels on the retina, the development of drusen or opaque deposits on the retina, and increased retinal pigment.

In those who reported being exposed to the most sunlight, wearing hats and sunglasses at least half the time was associated with about a 50 percent lower risk of developing drusen and retinal pigment.

Wearing hats and sunglasses at least half the time

Participants who reported more than 10 severe sunburns during their youth were 2,5 times more likely than those who experienced one or no sunburn to develop drusen within 10 years.

End of article.

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