It is not confirmed how beneficial or risky it is to have cataract surgery when you also have macular degeneration. (Learn More)

Having macular degeneration does not make you ineligible for cataract surgery. In many cases, you can still have cataract surgery if you also have macular degeneration.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts are both common conditions in older adults. (Learn More) They can therefore occur regularly in the same person at the same time.

There are some factors you will need to think about before deciding on cataract surgery if you also have macular degeneration. (Learn More)

Understanding Macular Degeneration & Cataractsdiagram of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the number one cause of vision loss. It is most commonly a factor of aging, and it is most likely to impact people ages 55 and older.

The macula is the central part of your eye’s retina, and macular degeneration is a deterioration of these cells. There are two main forms of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration is more common.

One of the main risk factors for cataracts is also age, as the proteins in the lens of your eye start to break down around age 40. Over time, usually a period of years or even decades, these tissues can clump together and cause the lens of your eye to become clouded. Once vision becomes impaired enough to impact daily life, the only treatment for cataracts is surgical removal and replacement of the lens. Cataract surgery is one of the most regularly performed operations in the United States.

Since cataracts and macular degeneration most often occur in older adults, it is likely to have both at the same time. Macular degeneration interferes with your central vision and vision clarity, while cataracts can make it seem like you are looking through a frosted windowpane.

Cataracts can:

  • Blur your vision.
  • Cause light sensitivity.
  • Decrease your ability to see well at night and in low-light conditions.
  • Create glares and halos around lights.

Safety of Cataract Surgery With Macular Degeneration

There is not enough evidence to support whether or not cataract surgery is completely safe and effective when you also have macular degeneration.

Studies show some short-term improvement in vision for people who have cataract surgery with AMD, but long-term results are less clear. Additional research shows visual improvement in people with wet AMD who undergo cataract surgery, with the procedure being safe and greatly improving quality of life.

There is also the potential that cataract surgery can speed up macular degeneration, but these reports are likely due to the fact that cataract surgery clears up the lens and therefore can make vision problems related to macular degeneration more apparent. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) publishes that there is not enough supporting evidence to indicate that cataract surgery will make AMD worse. In fact, it can actually improve your vision.

Considerations

If you have macular degeneration and are considering cataract surgery, it is important to think about what you are trying to accomplish.

Cataract surgery replaces your cloudy lens with a clear and artificial lens, which improves vision symptoms that were related to the cataract. The surgery will not fix problems with your vision that are related to macular degeneration. It can make these issues more apparent.

Macular degeneration impacts your central vision, which can make your peripheral vision even more important. Cataract surgery can enhance your peripheral vision and let more light into your eyes by clearing the lens and can therefore improve your quality of life.

Your eye doctor will run several vision and eye tests first to be sure that cataract surgery will actually help your vision when you also have macular degeneration. If cataract surgery is not going to improve your vision, surgery will not be done.

The chances are high that cataract surgery will be beneficial. If the situation is complex, the doctor may determine that the surgery will at least cause no harm or increased risk factors when macular degeneration is also present.

Talk to your doctor to determine if cataract surgery can help you when you also have macular degeneration.

References

Cataract. (July 2020). U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

What Is Macular Degeneration? American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF).

Cataracts. (August 2019). National Eye Institute (NEI).

Surgery for Cataracts in People With Age-Related Macular Degeneration. (February 2017). Cochrane Database System Review.

Outcomes of Cataract Surgery in Patients With Exudative Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Macular Fluid. (August 2018). American Journal of Ophthalmology.

Macular Degeneration and Cataract Surgery: Are They Compatible? (January 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Cataracts and Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA).

Is It Safe to Have Cataract Surgery With Macular Degeneration? (May 2019). MacularDegeneration.net