UV damage to the eye lens: further results from animal model studies: a review

J Epidemiol. 1999 Dec;9(6 Suppl):S39-47. doi: 10.2188/jea.9.6sup_39.


UV irradiation has the potential to induce the development of lens opacities. This has been demonstrated since long with animal experiments. Unfortunately these animal cataracts did not explain or elucidate the epidemiological observation that the frequency of human cataracts--such as the so called senile cataract--is remarkably higher in regions with increased cosmic UV irradiation or in the population being in close professional contact with UV-irradiation. The main problem was that the type of UV induced animal cataracts differs remarkably with respect to onset, localization of the opacity, size and its timely progression from the cataract classes observed in human. The research of the last 10 years comes to the conclusion that beside the direct (acute) damage--as seen in animal studies due to high UV dosages--we have to realize a syn- or co-cataractogenic potential of UV irradiation even below the threshold dose which is able to accumulate in the lens and to initiate together with other risk factors (chronic damage) the opacification of the lens. The mechanism for the animal cataract and the human cataract (with an UV risk participation) are different. The epidemiological research about cataract frequency in different regions of the world have to take into account that UV irradiation--even below a threshold dose--is a possible risk among the multifactorial pathogenesis of human cataract.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cataract / etiology*
  • Cataract / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / pathology
  • Lens, Crystalline / radiation effects*
  • Mice
  • Radiation Dosage
  • Rats
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*