Medical Societies Issue Advisory to Cataract Patients Being Prescribed Alpha-blockers, such as Flomax
Fairfax, VA and San Francisco– The results of a new study reinforce an advisory that patients taking Flomax® (Tamsulosin) to treat prostate enlargement and urinary problems should inform their ophthalmologist about their use of this drug before undergoing eye surgery. The advisory was issued by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) and updates the advisory the organizations released in 2006. The new study, published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the alpha-blocker Flomax increased the risk of certain complications following cataract surgery.
Advice for patients: Men and Women
Patients who take alpha-blockers or are considering taking alpha-blockers should be aware that the drugs may increase the difficulty of cataract surgery. While Flomax is largely prescribed to men to treat prostate enlargement, some women also take the drug to treat urinary retention problems. Other alpha-blockers are used to treat hypertension.
It is important that patients inform their ophthalmologist whether they are currently taking alpha-blockers, such as Flomax, or did so in the past. Once informed, the ophthalmologist can anticipate certain problems and employ different surgical techniques that help to achieve excellent outcomes. Patients should not decide on their own to discontinue their prostate/alpha-blocker drugs without consulting their prescribing physician.
Before being started on an alpha-blocker medication for the first time, patients who already have cataracts should understand that these drugs can complicate cataract surgery later on. For this reason, they may want to discuss the risks and the timing of their operation with their ophthalmologist performing cataract surgery.
“There are many factors that a prescribing doctor considers in selecting a medication to treat prostate enlargement,” said David F. Chang, MD, one of the investigators who first identified the effect that Flomax can have on cataract surgery. “Cataract surgeons can provide additional counsel about how Flomax might affect an individual patient’s risk for eye surgery, and whether stopping, delaying, or avoiding the drug is advisable. In addition, many ophthalmologists believe that other alpha-blockers pose less surgical difficulty and risk compared to Flomax.”
It is also important to reassure patients already taking Flomax that they have an excellent prognosis for successful cataract surgery, as long as their ophthalmologist performing eye surgery is forewarned. “Even with Flomax, the overall risk of serious cataract surgical complications is very low, and patients needn’t otherwise avoid or delay recommended surgery,” Dr. Chang said.
Cataracts and prostate enlargement are very common age-related conditions. A cataract is a progressive clouding of the lens of the eye and is the most common age-related cause of worsening vision. Ophthalmologists treat cataracts by surgically removing the cloudy natural lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens implant.
For more information, please see the joint information statement. Patients seeking to learn more about cataracts and cataract surgery can find more information here.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye M.D.s—with more than 27,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three “O’s” – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org.
The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery is an international educational and scientific organization whose 9,100 member ophthalmologists specialize in cataract and refractive surgery. www.ascrs.org