Does cataract surgery prevent cognitive decline and dementia?


The 2 minute update looks at a meta-analysis asking if cataracts are associated with long term cognitive decline.

This 2024 meta-analysis evaluated 24 studies and included over 558,000 patients. Most were prospective cohort studies including patients with cataracts; some patients had cataract surgery and some did not. All of the studies looked at long term cognitive decline, including dementia. Some also evaluated short term cognition following cataract surgery.

If someone with cataracts had cataract surgery, they were 25% less likely to have long term cognitive decline compared to someone who had cataracts and did not have surgery. There was also a small but statistically significant improvement in short term cognition following cataract surgery.

We all know that cataracts are common, and cataract surgery is the most common surgery in the US, with about 3.5 million surgeries each year. There is not good data to show us what portion of people with cataracts have cataract surgery and what portion does not, but clearly, some people simply don’t have surgery. It appears that not having surgery increases the risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia.

So please bear this in mind, when family or friends are considering cataract surgery, this is another reason in favor of it.

Reference: Yeo et al. Cataract Surgery and Cognitive Benefits in the Older Person: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ophthalmology 2024:S0161

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