Diabetes Increases Risk of Developing Cataracts

A new UK study has found that those with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cataracts as the general population[i].

A cataract is clouding of the lens of the eye, which leads to a decrease in vision. Cataracts can affect one or both eyes, and often develop slowly.  Symptoms include eyesight that is blurry or misty, finding lights too bright or glaring, difficulty seeing low light, and colours appearing to be faded.  Cataracts can affect the patient’s ability to drive[ii].

Cataract can be an occupational disease. Cataract appears on the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit list of prescribed diseases, in cases where the worker has been exposed to radiation from red-hot or white-hot material[iii].  These workers might include glass workers, metal workers and stokers.

In the new study, a group of patients with newly diagnosed diabetes were followed and compared with a similar population of non-diabetics. The incidence rate was 20.4 per 1000 people per year in diabetics, and 10.8 per person per year in non-diabetics, meaning that those with diabetes are about twice as likely to develop cataract.  The risk of cataract increased with increasing diabetes duration, and the difference in risk between diabetics and non-diabetics was greatest in those aged 45-54 years.

This is only the second such report on cataract incidence in diabetic UK patients since the 1980s[iv].


[i] Becker, C. et al. Cataract in patients with diabetes mellitus—incidence rates in the UK and risk factors. Eye 1 (2018). doi:10.1038/s41433-017-0003-1  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41433-017-0003-1 (Accessed 6 February 2018)

[ii] Age-related cataracts. NHS Choices. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cataracts/ (Accessed 6 February 2018)

[iii] List of diseases covered by Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/industrial-injuries-disablement-benefits-technical-guidance/industrial-injuries-disablement-benefits-technical-guidance#appendix-1-list-of-diseases-covered-by-industrial-injuries-disablement-benefit (Accessed 6 February 2018)

[iv] Diabetes doubles chance of developing cataract. Science Daily. 5 February 2018. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180205102750.htm (Accessed 6 February 2018)