To evaluate risk factors for the development of cataract in Australian residents.
A total of 3721 participants from 9 randomly selected urban districts within Victoria were recruited and invited to attend comprehensive standardized interviews and ophthalmic examinations at baseline and then 5-year follow-up. Lens opacities were graded clinically and on photographs according to the Wilmer cataract grading system. The development of cortical, nuclear, and posterior subcapsular cataract were assessed separately for associated risk factors. Risk exposure at baseline was used as the predictor for cataract development, which included various sociodemographic, dietary, familial, medical, and ocular characteristics of the participants. Risk factor analyses were performed by univariate and multivariate logistic regression.
Increased age was a risk factor for development of all types of cataract with an increasing risk trend throughout life for nuclear cataract. Female sex, a laborer’s occupation, and myopia were independent risk factors for development of cortical cataract. For development of nuclear cataract, the independent risk factors were having a birthplace outside Australia and New Zealand, current cigarette smoking, and having a history of arthritis. Diabetes mellitus and having taken calcium channel blockers for longer than 5 years were independent risk factors for posterior subcapsular cataract.
The trend of increasing incidence of cataract with increased age is a major public health concern with an aging population in Australia and the world. Among the risk factors identified, cigarette smoking is a factor that is readily modifiable and preventable. The other risk factors identified require further support or clarification of underlying mechanisms to find modifiable features.