Asthma Drugs Could Raise the Cataract Risk in Older People

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According to a new study out of Canada, if you are a senior taking anti-asthmatic medications to help with your asthma or an associated lung disease, you may be upping your chances of developing cataracts. This is important news, as in the United States more than half of the population will either develop cataracts or have cataract surgery by the age of 80.

 A cataract is a condition that tends to strike elderly people, leaving them with deteriorated vision that can lead to blindness if it’s not treated. Basically, a cataract develops when protein builds up and clouds the lens of the eye. This reduces the amount of light that reaches the retina, thus deteriorating vision.

 Eventually, the clumping causes the eye to cloud over, which can become severe enough to cause blurred vision. Most cases of cataracts that are noted in elderly patients result from protein clumping, which happens slowly, building up over time.

 Now, a research team out of Canada has just discovered that people over the age of 65 who are on cortisone-like medications (known as inhaled corticosteroids) to help keep their asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at bay are actually in danger of developing cataracts as a result.

 The researchers came to this conclusion by compiling data from a period of 14 years and from over 100,000 patients who had either asthma or COPD. The study, which was held at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, utilized data that was gleaned from a provincial health database. Information that was used in the study included prescription information and diagnosis for each participant in the study.

 The team found that for patients who used inhaled corticosteroids each day, their risk of developing cataracts was increased by 24%, as opposed to the risk patients who did not use the drugs faced of developing the condition. They also noted that there was an increase in the amount of patients who only took half the typical daily dose of the inhaled drug. Among the 100,000 patients who were included in the study, the researchers also noted that 10,000 of them developed cataracts that were severe in nature.

 The researchers are not discounting the benefits of inhaled corticosteroids and they do not recommend that elderly patients stop taking the medication. However, the researchers did note that elderly people should make an effort to reduce how much of the drug they are taking as much as they possibly can.

 Also, the study’s author, Dr. Samy Suissa, suggests that people who are prescribed an inhaled corticosteroid should take a long-acting bronchodilator or anti-leukotriene combination therapy instead, as it could help reduce their chances of developing cataracts due to medication.

 This new finding is especially important for elderly people and their family members who help administer prescription drugs, as it can help them reduce the chances of developing cataracts thanks to inhaled corticosteroids, which could rob them of their sight.