On the basis of preoperative assessment of patient characteristics, intraoperative obtainment of a lens-capsule and epithelium specimen, histopathologic investigation of lens capsule and epithelium, and biochemical analysis of glutathione reductase in lens epithelium, age-related cataract was studied in 50 adult patients who underwent consecutive extracapsular cataract-posterior chamber lens implant surgery. Patients (25 men and 25 women; age range, 41 to 91 years; mean age, 75 years) had a wide range of systemic and ocular disease; 17 of 50 (34%) patients had a history of severe vision-impairing cataract in a first-degree relative. Anterior lens-capsule thickness ranged from 10 to 22 microns, with a mean of 17 microns. Statistical analysis of lens-epithelium ultrastructure in 41 of 50 specimens documented mixing of normal and abnormal cells, verified a gradation in the degree of abnormal ultrastructural features, and demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in epithelial cytologic activity with advancing age (P = .038). Biochemical analysis documented a severe glutathione reductase deficiency in nine of 39 (23%) lens-epithelium specimens, possibly reflecting a dietary deficiency of riboflavin.