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March 1995

Age-Related Eye Disease and Survival: The Beaver Dam Eye Study

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison.

Arch Ophthalmol. 1995;113(3):333-339. doi:10.1001/archopht.1995.01100030089026

Objective:  To investigate the relationship of cataract, age-related maculopathy, glaucoma, and visual impairment to survival in the population-based Beaver Dam Eye Study.

Design:  In this population-based study, visual acuity was measured with use of standardized protocols. At baseline, stereoscopic color fundus photographs and color slit-lamp and retroillumination photographs were graded in a masked fashion to determine the presence of age-related maculopathy and cataract, respectively. Deaths were ascertained by contacting family members, daily review of obituaries, and use of vital status records.

Participants:  Subjects aged 43 through 84 years who lived in Beaver Dam, Wis, were identified and examined between 1988 and 1990.

Results:  From the time of the baseline examination until a median of 4 years later, 9.5% (467/4926) of the population had died. After correcting for age and sex, poorer survival was associated with more severe nuclear sclerosis (5-year survival of 88.9% for the most severe compared with 94.1% for the least severe stage) and visual impairment (5-year survival of 87.5% for impaired compared with 91.8% for unimpaired vision). However, after controlling for systemic factors, only more severe nuclear sclerosis in people without diabetes was significantly associated with poorer survival (hazard ratio per level of severity, 1.19; 95% confidence interval, 1.00 to 1.40).

Conclusions:  These data suggest that after controlling for age and sex, nuclear sclerotic cataract severity, cataract surgery, and visual impairment are risk indicators for poorer survival. Cortical cataract, posterior subcapsular cataract, glaucoma, and age-related maculopathy were unrelated to poorer survival.