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August 10, 1963

Cataracts in Asthmatics Treated with Corticosteroids

JAMA. 1963;185(6):448. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.03060060046017

Systemic corticosteroid therapy recently has been postulated as an etiologic factor in formation of posterior subcapsular cataracts,1-3 with 39% to 42% incidence of posterior subcapsular cataracts reported in patients with rheumatic diseases being treated with steroids. However, other authors4-6 have reported a much lower incidence.

For many patients with asthma corticosteroid therapy is the only treatment available which will permit reasonably normal activities. But the physician must weigh the favorable results against possible disadvantages, including the possibility of formation of posterior subcapsular cataracts, and must consider the medicolegal aspects of such therapy. Therefore, a group of 220 inpatients at the National Jewish Hospital at Denver was examined to determine the incidence of posterior subcapsular cataracts. Seventy-two of these were patients with asthma from the Asthma-Allergy Service.

Method of Study  The 72 asthmatic patients studied were between 8 and 65 years old. The pupils of all patients were