• Written By: Bhavna P. Sheth, MD
    Comprehensive Ophthalmology

    This is an important topic that our patients often ask about. Researchers prospectively examined associations between non-nutritional risk factors and the incidence of nuclear, cortical and posterior subcapsular (PSC) cataracts, as well as cataract surgery, in 4,426 Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) participants followed for an average of 10 years. Their results support those of other studies that have found a number of risk factors, including age, gender, race, education, diabetes, weight change, refraction, smoking and multivitamin use, to be significantly associated with cataracts.

    Data on possible risk factors were collected at baseline. Lens photographs were obtained annually and graded at a central location.

    The authors found the following associations: increasing age with increased risk of all types of cataract and cataract surgery; males with increased risk of PSC and decreased risk of cortical cataracts; nonwhite people with increased risk of cortical cataract; hyperopia with decreased risk of PSC, nuclear cataract and cataract surgery; Centrum (Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, Madison, N.J.) use with decreased risk of nuclear cataract; diabetes with increased risk of cortical cataract, PSC cataract and cataract surgery; higher educational level with decreased risk of cortical cataract; and smoking with increased risk of cortical cataract and cataract surgery. Estrogen replacement therapy in female participants increased the risk of cataract surgery.

    Results for some risk factors that have been reported previously, such as sunlight exposure and iris pigmentation, were not statistically significant in this analysis possibly due to variations in cataract grading definitions.