THURSDAY, Oct. 26, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Women who undergo cataract surgery may get an unexpected dividend: longer life.
That's the finding from a new study of more than 74,000 U.S. women aged 65 or older, including nearly 42,000 who'd had the eye procedure.
According to the study, having had cataract surgery was associated with a 60 percent reduced risk of early death from all causes, and a 37 to 69 percent reduced risk of death due to accidents, lung and heart diseases, cancer, infectious diseases and neurological disorders.
The study couldn't prove cause-and-effect -- maybe women who opt for cataract surgery simply take better care of themselves, although the researchers did factor in lifestyle issues such as obesity and exercise.
And prior research has suggested that a lower risk of premature death after cataract surgery may be due to improvements in overall health and in day-to-day functioning, the study authors said.
The investigators also said it's not clear if the same finding would apply to men.
Further study looking at how cataract surgery affects chronic illness or death from specific causes might help clarify "the benefits of cataract surgery beyond vision improvement," said the team led by Dr. Anne Coleman, of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Two experts in eye health agreed that the significance of the new findings isn't totally clear.
Even though the findings appear to make sense "from the fact that those with good vision are better able to function and maintain independence, this is not what this study elucidates," said Dr. Amilia Schrier, an ophthalmologist who specializes in cataract surgery at the Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital in New York City.
She pointed out that the women who were enrolled in the databases behind the study may be more health-conscious and "apt to seek medical care and receive such care as opposed to those who do not have surgery."
Dr. Matthew Gorski is an ophthalmologist at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. He agreed that "the study does not indicate the exact role that cataract surgery had on decreasing the risk of death," but added that the findings "reiterate the importance of seeing your eye doctor for screening eye exams."
According to Schrier, cataracts are a "leading cause of curable blindness and visual impairment."
She described cataract surgery as "a procedure that involves replacing the opaque lens with a clear intraocular lens implant made of a plastic which provides a marked improvement of vision."
The study was published Oct. 26 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more on cataracts (https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts ).
SOURCES: Amilia Schrier, M.D., ophthalmologist specializing in cataract and corneal surgery, Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital, New York City; Matthew Gorski, M.D., ophthalmologist, Northwell Health, Great Neck, N.Y.; JAMA Ophthalmology, news release, Oct. 26, 2017