Diabetics are twice as likely to develop cataracts, new study has found

by Barbara Hewitt on February 7, 2018

People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop cataracts as the general population and the relative risk is highest in those aged between 45 and 54, according to a new study.

A team of international researchers from the UK, Switzerland and the United States analysed medical records from 56,510 UK based diabetes patients aged 40 or over. They were followed up for 15 years to determine the link between diabetes and cataracts which are a well-known complication of the condition.


They found that cataracts were diagnosed at an overall rate of 20.4 per 1,000 people with diabetes. In comparison, just 10.8 per 1,000 of the general population were diagnosed with cataracts.

Diabetics aged between 45 and 54 were considerably more likely than non-sufferers to develop cataract, with their risk being 4.6 times higher and those aged between 50 and 54 were nearly six times more likely to develop cataracts, according to the results.

‘The report has shown that having diabetes doubles your risk of being diagnosed with a cataract, and that this risk is six times higher if a diabetic patient has significant diabetic retinal disease, called diabetic maculopathy,’ said professor Rupert Bourne of Anglia Ruskin University in the UK.

He pointed out that it is only the second such report on cataract incidence in the UK’s diabetic patients since the 1980s and it further emphasises the importance of the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening programme in early identification and treatment of diabetic eye disease to prevent sight loss.

According to Faye Riley, research communications officer at charity Diabetes UK, said that it is a large study that adds to an existing body of research linking diabetes with a greater risk of cataracts.

‘While this study doesn’t prove diabetes directly causes cataracts, we know that people with diabetes are at increased risk of problems with their eyes, which if left untreated could lead to visual impairment, and even blindness,’ she explained.

‘That’s why it’s really important that people with diabetes have regular eye checks to ensure that any early signs of eye damage can be identified and treated before turning into serious problems,’ she added.