Refractive associations with cataract: the Blue Mountains Eye Study

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1999 Nov;40(12):3021-6.


Purpose: To assess the relationship between myopia and age-related cataract in a defined older population.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of 3654 people aged 49 to 97 years was conducted in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, from 1992 through 1994. General medical, eye, and refractive history and information about confounders were collected by questionnaire. Participants had a detailed determination of refraction, and the spherical equivalent refraction of each eye was calculated. The Wisconsin Cataract Grading System was used in masked grading of slit lamp and retroillumination lens photographs, to assess presence and severity of nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular (PSC) cataract. Data from both eyes were analyzed by the generalized estimating equation method, adjusting for cataract risk factors.

Results: Included in the analysis were 7308 eyes. A history of wearing distance glasses, excluding eyes with current hyperopic refraction, was used as a proxy for myopia. Subjects who had worn distance glasses were more likely to have nuclear cataract (odds ratio [OR] 1.3; confidence interval [CI] 1.0-2.1). After stratification by age at first wearing distance glasses, this relationship remained only for people who first wore distance glasses after age 40 years (OR 1.3; CI 1.0-1.8), which suggested a myopic refractive shift from developing nuclear opacity and was supported by the weak association found between current myopic refraction and nuclear cataract (OR 1.3; CI 1.0-1.6). Eyes with onset of myopia before age 20 years had the greatest PSC cataract risk (OR 3.9; CI 2.0-7.9). This was supported by the finding of an association between current myopic refraction and PSC cataract (OR 2.5; CI 1.6-4.1). PSC cataract was inversely associated with hyperopia (OR 0.6; CI 0.4-0.9). Refraction-related increasing odds were found between PSC cataract and myopia: low myopia (OR 2.1; CI 1.4-3.5), moderate myopia (OR 3.1; CI 1.6-5.7), and high myopia (OR 5.5; CI 2.8-10.9). High myopia was associated with PSC, cortical, and late nuclear cataract.

Conclusions: Early-onset myopia (before age 20 years) may be a strong and independent risk factor for PSC cataract. The findings suggest the possibility of a dose response between levels of myopia and PSC cataract. Nuclear cataract was associated with presumed acquired myopia, whereas high myopia was associated with all three types of cataract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cataract / classification
  • Cataract / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eyeglasses
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myopia / epidemiology*
  • Myopia / therapy
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires