• Users Online: 36
  • Home
  • Print this page
  • Email this page
Home Current issue Ahead of print Search About us Abstracting and Indexing Editorial board Archives Submit article Instructions Subscribe Contacts Login 

 Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 243-249

Risk factors for nuclear and cortical cataracts: A hospital based study

1 Department of Molecular Nutrition, CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, Karnataka, India, Iran
2 Department of Ophthalmology, Sushrutha Eye Hospital, Mysore, Karnataka, India, Iran

Date of Submission08-Mar-2014
Date of Acceptance28-Sep-2014
Date of Web Publication26-Nov-2015

Correspondence Address:
Bangera Sheshappa Mamatha
Department of Molecular Nutrition, CSIR.Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore. .. 570. 020, Karnataka
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2008-322X.170356

Rights and Permissions

Purpose: To evaluate risk factors associated with nuclear and cortical cataracts among a hospital based sample of subjects in Southern India. Methods: In this hospital-based study, 3,549 subjects including 2,090 male and 1,459 female individuals aged 45 years and over were randomly screened for nuclear and cortical cataracts. Lens opacity was graded and classified after pupil dilation using the lens opacities classification system (LOCS) III at the slit lamp. Furthermore, participants were interviewed for lifestyle variables and dietary intake of carotenoids using a structured food frequency questionnaire. Results: Demographic risk factors for cataracts included older age and lower socioeconomic status. Nuclear cataracts were associated with diabetes (OR = 6.34; 95% CI: 2.34-8.92%), tobacco chewing (moderate, OR = 3.04; heavy, OR = 4.62), cigarette smoking (moderate, OR = 1.58; heavy, OR = 1.87) and hypertension (OR = 1.56; 95% CI: 1.25-2.78%). Cortical cataracts were associated with diabetes (OR = 15.03; 95% CI: 7.72-29.2%), tobacco chewing (moderate, OR = 2.16; heavy, OR = 2.32) and cigarette smoking (moderate, OR = 2.20; heavy, OR = 2.97). Higher dietary intake of lutein/zeaxanthin (L/Z) and β-carotene was associated (P < 0.001) with a lower risk of nuclear and cortical cataracts. Conclusion: Higher dietary intake of carotenoids is associated with a lower risk of cataracts. Nuclear and cortical cataracts are associated with various risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, cigarette smoking and tobacco, similar to studies conducted in other Asian and European populations, irrespective of ethnic origin.

Keywords: Carotenoids; Cataract; Cross-sectional Studies; Diabetes Mellitus; Risk Factors

How to cite this article:
Mamatha BS, Nidhi B, Padmaprabhu CA, Pallavi P, Vallikannan B. Risk factors for nuclear and cortical cataracts: A hospital based study . J Ophthalmic Vis Res 2015;10:243-9

How to cite this URL:
Mamatha BS, Nidhi B, Padmaprabhu CA, Pallavi P, Vallikannan B. Risk factors for nuclear and cortical cataracts: A hospital based study . J Ophthalmic Vis Res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Oct 1];10:243-9. Available from: http://www.jovr.org/text.asp?2015/10/3/243/170356

  Introduction Top

Cataract is the opacification of the healthy transparent crystalline lens in the eye and develops slowly as a consequence of aging.[1] Age-related cataracts are categorized into three major types including nuclear, cortical and posterior subcapsular. Cataracts account for 17.7 million (47.8%) out of 37 million cases of blindness worldwide.[2] In India, cataracts are responsible for 77.5% of avoidable blindness [3] and the prevalence of unoperated cataracts is high.[4],[5] Despite the fact that cataracts are of public health significance in India, there are only few reports on risk factors for age-related cataracts from India.[6],[7],[8] Furthermore, the relationship between the dietary intake of carotenoids and risk of cataract has not been established in India.

The aim of the present study was to describe potential risk factors for nuclear and cortical cataracts in a hospital sample from Southern India. It was also aimed to explore the potential association between nuclear and cortical cataracts and dietary intake of lutein/zeaxanthin (L/Z) and β-carotene. The outcome of this study not only lays the foundation for the future eye health care planning, but also offers valuable insights into the pathophysiology of this multi-factorial disease.

  Methods Top

In this hospital-based study, consecutive patients aged 45 years and over who visited a tertiary eye care center from 2010 to 2011 were screened for nuclear and cortical cataract. Patients who underwent cataract surgery were excluded from the study. Subjects were selected randomly, and both verbal and written informed consent were obtained from all study participants in accordance with the World Medical Association's declaration of Helsinki. Initially, 4,378 subjects were enrolled, of whom 3,549 subjects (81%) participated in the study.

Ophthalmological Examination

A comprehensive ophthalmological examination was performed by experienced ophthalmologists including measurement of visual acuity, subjective retinoscopic refraction, evaluation of pupillary response, external and anterior segment examination at the slit lamp biomicroscopy, and measurement of intraocular pressure with a Goldmann applanation tonometer. After these examinations, the pupils were dilated either with tropicamide (0.8%) or phenylephrine (5%) unless otherwise contraindicated by gonioscopy. Grading of the lens was done on at the slit lamp using the Lens Opacities Classification System (LOCS) III.[9] A standard set of photographs was mounted next to the slit lamp for grading the degree of nuclear opalescence and color, and cortical cataracts. Nuclear cataracts were graded with reference to standard photographs on a decimal scale of 0.1-6.9 based on optical density without reference to lens color. Cortical opacity was graded on a decimal scale of 0.1-5.9 according to the opacity obscuring the light reflex on retroillumination.


Trained study personnel, masked to cataract status, gathered information from enrolled subjects on demographics, education, occupation, income, medical history, physical activity, lifestyle (smoking, tobacco chewing or alcohol consumption), in a standardized interview. In addition, height (m) and weight (kg) without shoes were measured for calculating body mass index (BMI), which is derived from the person's weight divided by the square of his height. Self-reported diabetes, hypertension and their duration from diagnosis were also recorded.

A food frequency questionnaire was used to estimate the daily dietary intake of L/Z and β-carotene, as how often on average, fruits and vegetables were consumed. Since the frequency of one measure taken at a single time point does not represent subsequent intake over time, the current study used a structured food frequency questionnaire for more accurate representation of habitual dietary intake. The questionnaire included seasonal items, their amounts per se rving and number of serving per day, as well as the frequency of the item per day/week/month, in order to obtain a representative picture of the dietary practice over a long period of time. Intake of L/Z and β-carotene was calculated based on the database generated in our laboratory by extensive screening of food samples.[10],[11],[12]

Statistical Analysis

The association between cataracts and potential risk factors was assessed by univariate analysis, using Chi-square test and Fisher's Exact Test (only when the expected frequencies were less than 5). Significant variables were fitted into a multivariate analysis model by means of forward stepwise logistic regression. Odd ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated using logistic regression with variance calculation allowing for study design. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS software (SPSS Statistics 20.0, IBM Corp., Chicago, IL, USA). A two-tailed P value less than 0.05 was considered as statistically significant.

  Results Top

Cataract and Associated Risk Factors

A total of 3,549 subjects (81%, response rate) including urban and rural residents participated in the present study. The age of urban and rural residents ranged from 45 to 87 (59.8 ± 8.3) and 45 to 86 (59.5 ± 8.5) years, respectively. The study population in various age groups included 28.5% in the group aged 45-54 years, 42.5% in the group aged 55-64 years, 26.2% in the group aged 65-74 years, and 5.1% in the group aged 75 years and over [Table 1]. Definite cataract in one or both eyes was present in 1,000 (28.2%) out of 3,549 subjects. In eyes with cataracts, nuclear cataracts were the most common present in 838 (23.6%) subjects, followed by cortical cataracts in 162 (4.6%) cases. The incidence of specific types of cataracts present in the study population, subdivided according to age, gender, area of residence, socioeconomic status, family size and education are detailed in [Table 1].
Table 1. Incidence of specific types of cataract in the study population

Click here to view

[Table 2] summarizes the univariate association between specific types of cataract and various putative risk factors. For nuclear cataracts, significant associations were found for tobacco chewing (P = 0.001), smoking (P < 0.0001), alcohol consumption (P = 0.023), diabetes (P = 0.005), hypertension (P = 0.015), BMI (P = 0.002) and lower socioeconomic status (P = 0.005). Cortical cataracts were significantly associated with diabetes (P < 0.0001), tobacco chewing (P = 0.001), smoking (P = 0.02), alcohol consumption (P = 0.02) and lower socioeconomic status (P = 0.001); however, they showed a weak association with hypertension (P = 0.083).
Table 2. Univariate risk factors for specific types of cataracts

Click here to view

Logistic regression models were derived for each type of cataract [Table 3]. A self-reported history of diabetes was found to be significantly associated with an increased risk of nuclear (OR = 6.34; 95% CI: 2.34-8.92%) and cortical (OR = 15.03; 95% CI: 7.72-29.2%) cataracts. Nuclear cataracts were associated with aging (OR = 1.08; 95% CI: 1.07-1.09%), tobacco chewing (moderate, OR = 3.04; heavy, OR = 4.62), cigarette smoking (moderate, OR = 1.58; heavy, OR = 1.87), hypertension (OR = 1.56; 95% CI: 1.25-2.78%) and socioeconomic status (lower, OR = 2.34; middle, OR = 2.92). Whereas, cortical cataracts were independently associated with aging (OR = 1.04; 95% CI: 1.02-1.06%), tobacco chewing (moderate, OR = 2.16; heavy, OR = 2.32), cigarette smoking (moderate, OR = 2.20; heavy, OR = 2.97) and socioeconomic status (lower, OR = 2.34; middle, OR = 1.97).
Table 3. Logistic regression analysis on the association between cataracts with ocular and general parameters

Click here to view

Dietary Intake of Carotenoids and Risk of Cataract

Mean daily dietary intake of L/Z and β-carotene varied from 0.6 to 5.98 mg/day and 0.4 to 4.62 mg/day, respectively. No cataracts were found in subjects with <4 mg/day dietary intake of these carotenoids, confirming the importance of dietary L/Z and β-carotene in eye health [Table 4], and [Figure 1]. Results revealed that dietary intake of L/Z and β-carotene were significantly associated with both types of cataract (P < 0.0001). Subjects with lower dietary intake of these carotenoids exhibited an increased risk of cataracts. There was an inverse association between individual carotenoids (L/Z and β-carotene intake) and the risk of nuclear cataracts, with an OR of 0.79 and 0.87 for L/Z and β-carotene, respectively [Table 3]. Similarly, the risk of cortical cataracts was reduced with increased intake of L/Z (OR = 0.58) and β-carotene (OR = 0.66).
Table 4. Univariate association between cataracts and dietary intake of carotenoids

Click here to view
Figure 1. Association between dietary intake of carotenoids (L/Z and β-carotene) with nuclear (a) and cortical (b) cataracts. L/Z, lutein/zeaxanthin.

Click here to view

  Discussion Top

Cataracts are a multi-factorial condition associated with aging, female gender, genetic predisposition and other factors such as diabetes,[13],[14] hypertension,[8],[15] BMI,[8],[13] and socioeconomic factors such as lower levels of education.[6],[13] Available studies on risk factors associated with cataracts in Asian populations are summarized in [Table 5]. Herein, the differences between the risk factors of cataract in India as compared to other populations have been highlighted, aimed at the implication of our findings to the Indian context.
Table 5. Epidemiological studies on lifestyle, and environmental and medical risk factors for nuclear and corticalcataracts in Asia

Click here to view

Consistent with other studies,[8],[14] aging is a major contributing factor for cataracts as clearly evidenced in the present study; this probably occurs due to cumulative damage from the environment, genetic predisposition and a decrease in defense mechanisms.

The role of diabetes in cataractogenesis has been clearly established, and the underlying mechanism seems to be the toxic effect of sugar alcohols formed through the aldose reductase pathway in lens fibers.[13],[14],[15] In contrast, cigarette smoking is associated with nuclear, but not cortical cataracts.[13] In a population-based study on a Chinese population in Singapore, diabetes was associated with cortical cataracts (OR, 3.1; 95% CI: 1.6 to 6.1%), while cigarette smoking was associated with nuclear cataracts (OR, 1.7; 95% CI: 1.0 to 2.9%).[10] The current study also indicates a strong association between diabetes and cigarette smoking with both types of cataracts. The consistency of these data among diverse populations suggests a casual nature for these associations. Diabetes and smoking are growing public health problems in India and other Asian countries. Alarmingly, the prevalence of diabetes is on the rise in India which reflects affluence of older individuals and a tendency towards a sedentary lifestyle and dietary changes.[16] In the present study, a longer duration of diabetes was found to be associated with the risk of both types of cataracts suggesting that the risk of cataract attributable to diabetes is likely to increase in near future.

Evaluating the association between hypertension and specific types of cataract has shown variable findings. Results have indicated that hypertension is associated with nuclear, but not cortical cataracts. Mohan et al [6] reported that nuclear cataracts were associated with hypertension; however, other studies showed a link between cortical cataracts and hypertension.[8],[15] It is not clear how subjects with hypertension potentially develop cataracts.

Tobacco chewing and cigarette smoking are considered as risk factors for nuclear and cortical cataracts; the major pathophysiologic mechanism is thought to be excessive oxidative stress on the lens, leading to protein and cellular DNA damage, and formation of reactive glycation end products.[17] Foster et al [13] and Nirmalan et al [8] reported that smoking is a prominent risk factor for cataracts. In recent years, cigarette smoking and tobacco chewing is escalating at an alarming rate in India [18] and cigarette smoking has been attributed to cause up to 20% of cataracts among population.[19] Considering a preventive perspective, it might be beneficial to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of smoking and tobacco chewing.

Providing an explanation for the correlation between BMI and nuclear cataracts in our study is difficult. There is no evidence in the literature on the association between BMI and cataracts, partly since interpretation of what BMI represents is complex. A lower BMI has been hypothesized to reflect nutritional deprivation and lower socioeconomic status, particularly in developing countries. However, higher BMI has been reported to be associated with diabetes, hypertension and other morbidities. Previous studies have shown contradictory results regarding BMI. Foster et al [13] and Nirmalan et al [8] reported that lower BMI, whereas Hiller et al [20] reported that higher BMI increases the risk of cataracts. In the present study, higher BMI showed a correlation with diabetes and hypertension. Lower socioeconomic status was considered as a risk factor for both types of cataract, but comparable to BMI, the underlying reasons are complex. Lower socioeconomic status and less education are correlated with cigarette smoking, tobacco chewing and alcohol consumption, all of which may be related to cataracts.[5],[12] Moreover, other unmeasured factors may play a role in the pathogenesis of cataracts.

It is not clear if nutritional deficiency precedes cataracts or possibly accelerates cataract progression. This study showed an inverse correlation between higher dietary L/Z intake and the presence of nuclear and cortical cataracts which is consistent with other epidemiological studies.[21],[22] It is not clear whether this lower risk of cataracts is due to the higher intake of dietary L/Z per se, or related to the specific lifestyle associated with consuming foods rich in L/Z. Odds ratios obtained for L/Z were 0.58 and 0.79 and that for β-carotene were 0.66 and 0.87, for cortical and nuclear cataract, respectively. These figures are comparable to values reported for lutein in the Melbourne Visual Impairment Project for cortical (0.68) and nuclear (0.67) cataracts.[20] Considering both carotenoids, while the intake of L/Z was most strongly associated with both types of cataract, an inverse association between β-carotene intake and cataract was suggested, although this appeared to be entirely due to the carotenoid rich foods.

One inference from the current findings is that prevention and treatment of diabetes and hypertension might reduce the burden of cataracts. Smoking, alcohol consumption and tobacco remain modifiable risk factors for cataracts in this population. Results also confirmed that similar risk factors were associated with the pathogenesis of age related cataracts, irrespective of ethnic or racial origin. In summary, sufficient knowledge about risk factors for cataracts as well as odds ratio related with specific risk factors will be beneficial for more effective prevention strategies in the community. Furthermore, raising public awareness regarding the importance of dietary antioxidant carotenoids is warranted.


Bangera Sheshappa Mamatha and Bhatiwada Nidhi acknowledge the award of Senior Research Fellowship by University Grant Commission and Indian Council of Medical Research, Government of India, New Delhi. The authors also thank the Director, Central Food Technological Research Institute for their encouragement. The authors thank Dr. Venkat Subramanian and Arun Kumar for clinical input, Pawan R. Katti for statistical analysis, and all the volunteers who participated.

Financial Support and Sponsorship


Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Taylor HR. Epidemiology of age-related cataract. Eye (Lond) 1999;13 (Pt 3b):445-448.  Back to cited text no. 1
Resnikoff S, Pascolini D, Etya'ale D, Kocur I, Pararajasegaram R, Pokharel GP, et al. Global data on visual impairment in the year 2002. Bull World Health Organ 2004;82:844-851.  Back to cited text no. 2
Neena J, Rachel J, Praveen V, Murthy GV; Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness India Study Group. Rapid assessment of avoidable blindness in India. PLoS One 2008;3:e2867.  Back to cited text no. 3
Bettadapura GS, Donthi K, Datti NP, Ranganath BG, Ramaswamy SB, Jayaram TS. Assessment of avoidable blindness using the rapid assessment of avoidable blindness methodology. N Am J Med Sci 2012;4:389-393.  Back to cited text no. 4
Vashist P, Talwar B, Gogoi M, Maraini G, Camparini M, Ravindran RD, et al. Prevalence of cataract in an older population in India: The India study of age-related eye disease. Ophthalmology 2011;118:272-278.e1-2.  Back to cited text no. 5
Mohan M, Sperduto RD, Angra SK, Milton RC, Mathur RL, Underwood BA, et al. India-US case-control study of age-related cataracts. India-US Case-Control Study Group. Arch Ophthalmol 1989;107:670-676.  Back to cited text no. 6
Ughade SN, Zodpey SP, Khanolkar VA. Risk factors for cataract: A case control study. Indian J Ophthalmol 1998;46:221-227.  Back to cited text no. 7
Nirmalan PK, Robin AL, Katz J, Tielsch JM, Thulasiraj RD, Krishnadas R, et al. Risk factors for age related cataract in a rural population of southern India: The Aravind comprehensive eye study. Br J Ophthalmol 2004;88:989-994.  Back to cited text no. 8
Chylack LT, Wolfe JK, Singer DM, Leske CM, Bullimore MA, Bailey IL, et al. The lens opacities classification system III. Arch Ophthalmol 1993;111:831-836.  Back to cited text no. 9
Lakshminarayana R, Raju M, Krishnakantha TP, Baskaran V. Determination of major carotenoids in a few Indian leafy vegetables by high-performance liquid chromatography. J Agric Food Chem 2005;53:2838-2842.  Back to cited text no. 10
Raju M, Varakumar S, Lakshminarayana R, Krishnakantha TP, Baskaran V. Carotenoid composition and Vitamin A activity of medicinally important green leafy vegetables. Food Chem 2007;101:1621-1628.  Back to cited text no. 11
Mamatha BS, Sangeetha RK, Baskaran V. Provitamin-A and xanthophyll carotenoids in vegetables and food grains of nutritional and medicinal. Int J Food Sci Technol 2011;46:315-323.  Back to cited text no. 12
Foster PJ, Wong TY, Machin D, Johnson GJ, Seah SK. Risk factors for nuclear, cortical and posterior subcapsular cataracts in the Chinese population of Singapore: The Tanjong Pagar Survey. Br J Ophthalmol 2003;87:1112-1120.  Back to cited text no. 13
Vrensen GF. Early cortical lens opacities: A short overview. Acta Ophthalmol 2009;87:602-610.  Back to cited text no. 14
Cheng CY, Liu JH, Chen SJ, Lee FL. Population-based study on prevalence and risk factors of age-related cataracts in Peitou, Taiwan. Zhonghua Yi Xue Za Zhi (Taipei) 2000;63:641-648.  Back to cited text no. 15
Ramachandran A, Snehalatha C, Shetty AS, Nanditha A. Trends in prevalence of diabetes in Asian countries. World J Diabetes 2012;3:110-117.  Back to cited text no. 16
Nicholl ID, Stitt AW, Moore JE, Ritchie AJ, Archer DB, Bucala R. Increased levels of advanced glycation endproducts in the lenses and blood vessels of cigarette smokers. Mol Med 1998;4:594-601.  Back to cited text no. 17
Rani M, Bonu S, Jha P, Nguyen SN, Jamjoum L. Tobacco use in India: Prevalence and predictors of smoking and chewing in a national cross sectional household survey. Tob Control 2003;12:e4.  Back to cited text no. 18
West SK, Valmadrid CT. Epidemiology of risk factors for age-related cataract. Surv Ophthalmol 1995;39:323-334.  Back to cited text no. 19
Hiller R, Podgor MJ, Sperduto RD, Nowroozi L, Wilson PW, D'Agostino RB, et al. A longitudinal study of body mass index and lens opacities. The Framingham studies. Ophthalmology 1998;105:1244-1250.  Back to cited text no. 20
Vu HT, Robman L, Hodge A, McCarty CA, Taylor HR. Lutein and zeaxanthin and the risk of cataract: The Melbourne visual impairment project. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2006;47:3783-3786.  Back to cited text no. 21
Lyle BJ, Mares-Perlman JA, Klein BE, Klein R, Greger JL. Antioxidant intake and risk of incident age-related nuclear cataracts in the Beaver Dam eye study. Am J Epidemiol 1999;149:801-809.  Back to cited text no. 22


  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]

This article has been cited by
1 Cataractogenic load A concept to study the contribution of ionizing radiation to accelerated aging in the eye lens
Alice Uwineza,Alexia A. Kalligeraki,Nobuyuki Hamada,Miguel Jarrin,Roy A. Quinlan
Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research. 2019; 779: 68
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
Access Statistics
Email Alert *
Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)

  In this article
Article Figures
Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded228    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal