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October 1993

Alcohol and Cataract

Author Affiliations

Clayton, Mo

Arch Ophthalmol. 1993;111(10):1312. doi:10.1001/archopht.1993.01090100018002

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After some skepticism and a hiatus of two decades, articles are now beginning to appear confirming the linkage of alcohol consumption with cataract, particularly posterior subcapsular cataract.1,2 This association was reported by Sabiston3 and me4 independently. A patient in his or her 40s or 50s who appears with a posterior subcapsular cataract should be investigated for alcoholism. In abusive alcoholics, some of these posterior subcapsular cataracts may progress rapidly to maturity in only a few months. In my practice, about 25% of patients younger than age 65 years who present with cataract are found to be alcoholic on careful investigation. Some are successful business people whose alcohol ingestion is social but, nonetheless, significant. It has been my experience that if the opacities are incipient and if the consumption of alcohol is stopped completely, the posterior subcapsular changes may reverse and even disappear.

Muñoz MS, Tajchman U, Bochow T, West S.  Alcohol use and risk of posterior subcapsular opacities . Arch Ophthalmol . 1993;111:110-112.Article
Ritter L, Klein BE, Klein R, Mares-Perlman J.  Alcohol use and lens opacities in the Beaver Dam Eye Study . Arch Ophthalmol . 1993;111:113-117.Article
Sabiston D.  Cataracts, Dupuytren's contracture and alcohol addiction . Am J Ophthalmol . 1973;76:1005-1007.
Drews RC.  Ethanol cataract . In: Solanes M, ed. XXI Concilium Ophthalmologicum Mexico 1970 . Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Excerpta Medica; 1970:753-758.