Medications and cataract. The Blue Mountains Eye Study

Ophthalmology. 1998 Sep;105(9):1751-8. doi: 10.1016/S0161-6420(98)99049-2.


Purpose: Corticosteroids are known to cause cataracts, but the effects of other medications on the lens are unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between cataracts and a range of medications, including allopurinol, aspirin, chloroquine, diuretics, phenothiazines, and simvastatin.

Design: Population-based cross-sectional study.

Participants: 3654 individuals 49 to 97 years of age (response rate, 82%) from an urban community near Sydney, Australia, were included.

Testing: Lens photography.

Primary outcome measure: Lens photographs were graded for the presence and severity of cortical, nuclear, and posterior subcapsular cataract.

Results: After adjusting for numerous potential confounders in ordinal regression models, use of phenothiazines was associated with nuclear cataract (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.18; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01-4.74); long-term aspirin users (> or = 10 years) had higher prevalence of posterior subcapsular cataract than did nonusers and short-term users (test for trend, P = 0.02); and the antimalarial drug mepacrine was associated with posterior subcapsular cataract (adjusted OR, 3.56; 95% CI, 1.56-8.13). There was a suggestion that use of chloroquine-like drugs for more than 1 year (test for trend, P = 0.12) might also be associated with posterior subcapsular cataract. Antihypertensive medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and allopurinol were not associated with any type of cataract. Potassium-sparing diuretics were the only diuretic to show any evidence of an association with cataract (test for trend for posterior subcapsular cataract, P = 0.14). Amiodarone was associated with cortical cataract (age- and gender-adjusted OR, 3.84; 95% CI, 1.01-14.81), but there were too few users to do analyses adjusted for multiple confounders.

Conclusions: Most drugs commonly used in the community do not appear to be associated with cataract. The findings of this study do not support the hypothesis that aspirin protects against cataract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cataract / chemically induced
  • Cataract / epidemiology*
  • Cataract / prevention & control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Therapy*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Photography
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Distribution