If a person has cataract surgery, it will not affect their risk of developing or progressing macular degeneration.

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Macular degeneration is a condition that affects the macula of the eye. It impacts the center part of the light-sensitive retina and affects a person’s central vision.

A cataract is another eye disorder that can affect a person’s vision. Read about the comparisons between the two conditions here.

The only way to treat cloudy lenses is through cataract surgery. There is currently no cure for macular degeneration, but cataract surgery may have some benefits for a person’s vision.

In this article, we look at whether cataract surgery is safe for people with macular degeneration. We also explore whether it can worsen the condition and help with vision loss.

Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss in older adults, affecting almost 1.8 million people in the United States.

People with macular degeneration may experience:

  • problems seeing objects
  • distortions in vision, such as straight lines appearing wavy
  • a dampened ability to see color
  • a black spot at the center of their vision

Macular degeneration has dry and wet forms.

Learn more about eye health at our dedicated hub.

A 2017 review states that there was not enough data at the time to conclude whether cataract surgery was harmful or not in people with macular degeneration.

However, according to the American Academy of Opthalmology (AAO), having cataract surgery will not affect a person’s risk of developing macular degeneration. The National Eye Institute also states that cataract surgery does not cause disease progression in people with macular degeneration.

A 2022 randomized controlled clinical trial involving 1,195 participants who received cataract surgery found in a 10-year follow-up that surgery did not impact the risk of developing macular degeneration.

Another study from 2022 involving 111 Finnish participants concludes that there is no reason to delay cataract surgery in people with the wet type of macular degeneration.

Will it improve vision with macular degeneration?

Cataract surgery can help let more light into the eye by eliminating lens cloudiness due to cataracts, but it cannot restore central vision loss due to macular degeneration.

This surgery will only improve a person’s vision if cataracts impair their vision. In some people with advanced macular degeneration, the retina is so damaged that cataract surgery will not improve vision.

Doctors diagnose macular degeneration through an eye exam. They may also recommend a test called optical coherence tomography to take pictures of the eye’s interior.

The exam will help the doctor determine whether the person is suitable for cataract removal surgery. Determining the main cause of vision loss is also crucial. If a person’s vision loss is due mainly to severe macular degeneration, cataract surgery may not help as much, but it can make things brighter.

There are two types of cataract surgeries: small-incision and extracapsular.

Small-incision surgery involves inserting a small probe into the eye through a tiny corneal incision. The probe helps break up the damaged lens by emitting ultrasound waves, making it easier to extract via suction.

Extracapsular surgery requires a slighlty larger incision in the cornea, allowing the surgeon to remove the lens core in one piece.

Regardless of the technique, the surgeon will replace the eye’s natural lens with a plastic intraocular lens.

Cataract surgery cannot treat or cure macular degeneration. A person may benefit from wearing glasses and vision aids. Find out what types of glasses may help.

There is currently no cure for dry macular degeneration, but some evidence suggests that supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals may help slow the condition’s progression.

Treatment for wet macular degeneration involves taking anti-vascular endothelial growth factor injections, which can reduce the number of new blood vessels in the retina and limit leakage. Laser surgery can also help reduce blood vessels and prevent fluid leakage in some people.

Learn more about treatments for macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is a condition that affects central vision. There is currently no cure for the most common form of macular degeneration.

The AAO suggests that cataract surgery will not affect a person’s risk of developing macular degeneration. Although the surgery will not treat macular degeneration, it may help improve a person’s vision if cataracts are the main cause of vision problems.