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Nov 4

Anti-depressant Medications and Cataract Development Linked Says Researchers

A Canadian study has linked the development of cataracts with the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Researchers from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, and McGill University, based their study on data from more than 200,000 Quebec residents age 65 and older. Published in the scientific journal Ophthalmology, the study does not prove causation but does reveal an association between the use of SSRIs and the development of cataracts. This study is the first to establish a link between this class of drugs and cataracts in humans.

The benefits of treating depression, which can be life-threatening, outweigh the risk of developing cataracts, which are treatable with minimally-invasive surgery which has a long track record of being very successful. Patients taking SSRIs were 15% more likely to be diagnosed with cataracts or to have cataract surgery.

Interestingly, the degree of risk among different SSRIs varied considerably. For example, fluvoxamine (Luvox) led to a 51% higher chance of having cataract surgery, and venlafaxine (Effexor) led to a 34% higher risk. No connection could be made between fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), and sertraline (Zoloft) and cataract surgery.

The study notes that these results are surprising, but should not cause alarm among people taking these medications. Psychiatrist may find the study useful, as it may allow them to make better choices for patients based on their circumstances. 

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