Objective: To determine the prevalence of lens opacities in the elderly Chinese population in an urban and a rural region of Beijing.
Design: Population-based cross-sectional study.
Participants: The study included 4439 subjects of 5324 subjects invited to participate (response rate, 83.4%). The subjects were divided into a rural part (1973 subjects [44.4%]) and an urban part (2466 subjects [55.6%]). The study was limited to participants age 40 and older, and the mean age was 56.2+/-10.6 years (range, 40-101 years).
Methods: Nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular lens opacities were assessed based on standardized slit-lamp photographs of the lens using a modification of the grading score of the Age-related Eye Disease Study (AREDS).
Main outcome measures: Grading score of the AREDS.
Results: Lens data were provided for 4378 subjects (98.6%) of 4439 persons examined, which consisted of 8724 eyes. Prevalence of any cataract surgery was 1.3% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.0-1.7), which was statistically independent of gender (P = 0.51; odds ratio [OR]: 0.86; 95% CI: 1.00-1.34), rural area versus urban region (P = 0.25), and level of education (P = 0.84). Prevalence of any nuclear lens opacity was 82.0% (95% CI: 80.8-83.2); prevalence of any cortical lens opacity was 10.3% (95% CI: 9.4-11.3); and prevalence of any posterior subcapsular opacity was 4.3% (95% CI: 3.7-4.9). If grade 2 of nuclear lens opacity was considered to be normal, prevalence of nuclear cataract was 50.3% (95% CI: 48.8-51.8), and the overall prevalence of any cataract was 53.1% (95% CI: 51.6-54.6), increasing from 6.5% (95% CI: 5.2-7.8) in those subjects 40 to 49 years of age to 52.3% (95% CI: 47.4-55.3) in those who were 50 to 59 years of age, and to 97.8% (95% CI: 96.4-99.2) in those 70 years and older (P<0.001). Frequencies of any cortical cataract and any subcapsular posterior cataract were 10.3% (95% CI: 9.4-11.3) and 4.3% (95% CI: 3.7-4.9), respectively.
Conclusions: Cataracts are common among adult Chinese residents in Beijing, with age as the most important associated factor. In view of the relatively low rate of cataract surgery performed so far, one may expect a marked increase in the number of cataract surgeries to meet the visual needs of the growing elderly population in China.