Lower intraocular oxygen tension in diabetic patients: possible contribution to decreased incidence of nuclear sclerotic cataract

Am J Ophthalmol. 2006 Jun;141(6):1027-32. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2006.01.016.


Purpose: To report intraocular oxygen tension in eyes of diabetic and nondiabetic patients.

Design: A prospective, interventional consecutive case series.

Methods: Oxygen was measured with an optical oxygen sensor in patients who were undergoing vitrectomy. Before turning on the infusion fluid, intraocular oxygen tension was measured in two locations: adjacent to the lens and in the mid vitreous cavity.

Results: Fifty eyes from 50 patients were included in the study. Twenty-one eyes were from diabetic patients and 29 eyes were from nondiabetic patients. The mean oxygen tension adjacent to the lens was significantly lower in diabetic than in nondiabetic patients (8.4 +/- 0.7 mm Hg vs 10.7 +/- 0.8 mm Hg; P < .05). Similarly, the mean oxygen tension in the center of the vitreous cavity was lower in diabetic than in nondiabetic patients (5.7 +/- 0.7 mm Hg vs 8.5 +/- 0.6 mm Hg; P < .001). In subgroup analyses, previous panretinal photocoagulation or cataract surgery did not affect oxygen levels significantly in the vitreous of diabetic or nondiabetic patients.

Conclusion: Eyes from diabetic patients have significantly lower intraocular oxygen tension than in eyes from nondiabetic patients. Because oxidative damage to the lens nucleus and increased intraocular oxygen tension have been associated with nuclear sclerotic cataract, these findings may help explain recent reports of an apparent protective effect of diabetes mellitus against nuclear sclerotic cataract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cataract / prevention & control*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Ion-Selective Electrodes
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Vitrectomy
  • Vitreous Body / metabolism*


  • Oxygen