Study Links SSRI, SNRI Use to Increased Cataract Risk

In a large population of patients studied in Quebec, the current use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) was associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing cataracts. The study looked at over 200,000 patients, 18,784 of whom had cataracts and 187,840 of whom had no cataracts.

About 5.7% of patients with cataracts were taking SSRIs or SNRIs, while only 4.4% of the group without cataracts was taking these medications. Researchers calculated that this demonstrated a roughly 15% increased risk for cataracts among current SSRI or SNRI users. Previous use of the medicines were not associated with any increased risk. The risk was not equal for all medications. Fluvoxamine  (Luvox) (39% increased risk) and venlafaxine (Effexor) (33% increased risk) were associated with the highest increased risk, while fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetene (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), and setraline (Zoloft)  did not have statistically significant increased risk. Researcher caution that the variation in risk and the lack of risk for some SSRIs and SNRIs does not mean the drugs are safer,  but is more likely due to a lack of statistical power to determine the risk of individual drugs.

The study was limited because it utilized an administrative database and was therefore unable to check for other risk factors, which for cataracts includes smoking, ultraviolet exposure, and use of steroids. It was also unable to distinguish the severity of cataracts, but only whether a person had cataract surgery following diagnosis.

And if you are beginning to suffer vision loss due to a darkening of your crystalline lens, talk to a local cataract doctor to learn about your surgical options.