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Ophthalmology. 2001 Sep;108(9):1670-4.

Drug use and five-year incidence of age-related cataracts: The Beaver Dam Eye Study.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.



To evaluate incident cataract after a 5-year interval with respect to medication use.


Population-based incidence study.


Incident cataract judged from standard photographs.


Study subjects were adults 43 to 86 years of age in 1988 to 1990 and again in 1993 to 1995. All participants were examined and interviewed, and photographs were taken. All procedures and grading were done by protocols at both examinations. All medications in current use, prescribed as well as over-the-counter, were brought to the examination site, and the names were recorded at that time.


There were 678 drug preparations (active ingredients) being used at the baseline examination. Significantly lower incidences of nuclear cataracts 5 years later occurred in those who took thiazide diuretics (odds ratio [OR] = 0.79, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.63, 1.00) and aspirin (OR = 0.76, 95% CI 0.61, 0.95) at the baseline examination. There were significantly more incident cortical cataracts in those taking oral steroids (OR = 2.59, 95% CI 1.45, 4.62), amitriptyline (OR = 2.03, 95% CI 1.09, 3.79), oral hypoglycemic agents (OR 2.06, 95% CI 1.23, 3.44), and insulin (OR = 3.38, 95% CI 1.61, 7.08). There were significantly more incident posterior subcapsular cataracts in those taking potassium-sparing diuretics (OR = 2.13, 95% CI 1.42, 3.18) and oral hypoglycemic agents (OR = 2.89, 95% CI 1.57, 5.33). Considering past use with never and current use did not alter the patterns of associations. We were not able to separate the effects of antihypertensive or diuretic agents from that of hypertension. However, hypoglycemic agents were no longer associated with any cataract type after stratifying by diabetes status.


Although many different medications were being used at the baseline examination in the Beaver Dam Eye Study cohort, few were associated with incident cataract. However, with the high frequency of use of medications and the possibility that effects of current exposure may occur in the future, it is reasonable to follow this and other older cohorts for the development of cataract.

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