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Cataract Surgery May Worsen Diabetic Retinopathy

This post will be short and is written as follow-up to “Diabetics Get Cataracts”.

There is a study just published in the journal Ophthalmology where patients with diabetes underwent cataract surgery.  The incidence of diabetic retinopathy was then followed for at least 12 months.  Patients with both Type I and Type II diabetes were followed.

Overall, there was an increased incidence of diabetic retinopathy in the eyes of those patients that underwent cataract surgery versus the eyes that did not have cataract surgery.  In addition, in 45 patients where only one eye was operated upon, there was an increased chance of developing diabetic retinopathy in the operated eye.

What does this mean? This seems to underscore the importance of having cataract surgery earlier than later, that is, have cataract surgery when the retinopathy is either not detectable or barely detectable.  Also, this study included patients 65 years or older.  The results did not follow the visual acuity. Lastly, even though the incidence of diabetic retinopathy increased, the results indicate better outcomes than similar studies using older cataract surgery techniques (i.e. newer techniques are better and safer).  The newer “phacoemulsification” techniques are quite common in the U.S. and have been so for about 10-15 years.

The abstract to the article.


Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist

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