HRT Linked to 42% Increase in Cataract Risk

March 10, 2010


The Europeans and the Americans do seem to take a different approach to HRT, with the former being more sceptical and sometimes disagreeing with US findings. This is the case with some new research from Sweden which has reported that women who receive hormone replacement therapy appear to be at a higher risk for developing cataracts.

The research was funded by the Swedish Health Council and is an eight-year study of more than 30,000 postmenopausal Swedish women from 1997 to October 2005. The women initially completed a questionnaire about hormone status, HRT, and lifestyle factors. Lead researcher Birgitta Ejdervik Lindblad, MD, of Sundsvall in Sweden and her colleagues later compared these records with registers of cataract operations.

Compared with women who never had HRT, the risk of needing cataract surgery was 14% higher among those who received HRT at any point their lives and 18% higher for women currently taking hormones. The risk becomes even higher the longer a woman is on HRT, and if you have more than one alcoholic drink a day, then the risk rises to a staggering 42%.

Naturally occurring (endogenous) oestrogen is thought to protect the eyes from cataracts, and oestrogen receptors have been found on the lens, the part of the eye damaged by cataracts. Certainly the prevalence of cataracts is known to be higher in postmenopausal women compared with men of equivalent age. One reason why this research contradicts that in the US, which found that HRT lowered cataracts or had no influence, depending on the type of cataract, is that HRT dosages and types of oestrogen used vary in different countries, so comparison between the studies is difficult. Also the oestrogens in HRT are not natural but chemical and this again is probably an influencing factor.

If you are taking HRT it is advisable to have regular check ups with an optician as cataract screening is normally an automatic part of the process, but do mention it just in case.


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