March 1989

Ultraviolet Light Exposure and Risk of Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts

Author Affiliations

From the Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology of the Wilmer Institute and the School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (Drs Bochow, West, Sommer, and Taylor, and Ms Munoz), and the Peninsula Eye Center, Salisbury, Md (Dr Azar).

Arch Ophthalmol. 1989;107(3):369-372. doi:10.1001/archopht.1989.01070010379027

• Posterior subcapsular (PSC) cataracts are a visually disabling form of cataract and account for 40% of surgical cases. Although PSC opacities may occur following intraocular inflammation, trauma, or use of steroids, the cause is often unknown. A case-control study was undertaken to investigate the role of exposure to ultraviolet light in the B range (UV-B) and other potential risk factors for the development of PSC cataracts. Surgical PSC cataract cases from a large rural ophthalmic practice on the lower eastern shore of Maryland were matched with phakic controls without PSC cataract changes from the same geographic area by age, sex, and referral pattern. All patients with PSC opacities who underwent cataract surgery in a 12-month period were chosen. One hundred sixty-eight cases and 168 controls were interviewed regarding sunlight exposure, drug use, occupational history, history of diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases. Matched-pairs analyses indicated that a history of relatively high exposure to UV-B was associated with increased risk of PSC cataracts. The association of PSC cataracts with steroid use and diabetes was reconfirmed. Subjects with blue eyes and less than high school education were also at increased risk for PSC cataracts. Smoking and hypertension were not found to be PSC cataract risk factors. These data suggest that UV-B exposure may be an important risk factor for PSC cataracts.