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See clearer, drive safer: Study finds cataract surgery may decrease crash risk

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Photo: AnnBaldwin/iStockphoto

Toronto — Drivers with cataracts who have surgery to correct the problem may reduce their risk of being involved in a crash, research from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences shows.

A cataract is a progressive clouding of the eye’s lens that results in blurred vision, decreased contrast and increased glare – conditions that can make driving difficult.

Researchers reviewed nearly 560,000 cataract surgery cases over a 10-year period and linked 6,482 motor vehicle crashes to the patients, who were driving and consequentially needed emergency care. The patients’ average age was 76.

They found that the crash rate dropped to 2.14 per 1,000 patients over the course of the first year after having the surgery from 2.36 in the three-and-a-half years before undergoing surgery – a reduction of 9.2 percent.

“The safety gains after cataract surgery are substantial and equal the benefits of an airbag,” Donald Redelmeier, study co-author, senior scientist at ICES and University of Toronto professor, said in a June 28 press release.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts in one or both eyes, and the total number of people who have cataracts is projected to increase to 30.1 million by 2020.

The study was published online June 28 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

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