A new study finds that some antidepressants may increase the risk of developing cataracts among senior citizens.
The study, led by Mahyar Etminan, PharmD, of Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Canada, assessed data for nearly 19,000 people age 65 or older, all of whom also had cardiovascular disease. Their records were compared to about 190,000 controls.
The risk was strongest for three SSRIs: Luvox (fluvoxamine) increased risk by 39 percent, Effexor (venlafaxine) by 33 percent and Paxil (paroxetine) by 23 percent.
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.
The risk attributable to antidepressant use would translate to 22,000 cataract cases per year in the United States.
“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,” Dr. Etminan said.
“If our findings are confirmed in future studies, doctors and patients should consider cataract risk when prescribing some SSRIs for seniors,” he added.
Earlier research linked beta blocker medications and oral and inhaled steroids to higher cataract risk, and a recent Swedish study suggests that women’s hormone replacement therapy may also raise risk.