Some Antidepressants May Increase Risk of Cataract in Older Adults

SAN FRANCISCO -- June 3, 2010 -- A study published in the June issue of the journal Ophthalmology links the risk of cataract to 3 widely-prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants.

Seniors who take SSRIs may be more likely to develop cataracts, according to the first major study to examine this interaction.

The risk appears to increase by about 15%, which in the United States would translate to 22,000 cataract cases attributable to antidepressant use.

The study, led by Mahyar Etminan, PharmD, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Vancouver, British Columbia, assessed data for nearly 19,000 people age 65 or older, all of whom also had cardiovascular disease. Their records were compared with about 190,000 controls.

The effect was strongest for fluvoxamine (Luvox), which increased risk by 39%, venlafaxine (Effexor), which increased risk by 33%, and paroxetine (Paxil), which increased cataract risk by 23%.

The apparent increased risk was associated only with current, not past, drug use.

Some antidepressants did not appear to be associated with cataract risk, but this could have been because the numbers of study participants using these drug types were too small to show effects, or because only specific agents in certain medications are related to cataract formation. These questions need further study.

"The eye's lens has serotonin receptors, and animal studies have shown that excess serotonin can make the lens opaque and lead to cataract formation," said Dr. Etminan. "If our findings are confirmed in future studies, doctors and patients should consider cataract risk when prescribing some SSRIs for seniors."

SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology