Cataract in patients with diabetes mellitus—incidence rates in the UK and risk factors

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To analyze the risk of incident cataract (diagnosis or extraction) in patients with or without diabetes focusing on other comorbid conditions, antidiabetic drug use, and diabetes duration.


The study population comprised newly diagnosed diabetes patients (≥40 years) from the UK-based Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) between 2000 and 2015, and a random sample of the general population matched for age, sex, general practice, and year of diabetes diagnosis. We assessed cataract incidence rates (IRs) and performed a nested case-control analysis in the diabetic cohort to assess potential risk factors for a cataract.


There were 56,510 diabetes patients included in the study. IRs of cataract were 20.4 (95% CI 19.8–20.9) per 1000 person-years (py) in patients with diabetes and 10.8 (95% CI 10.5–11.2) per 1000 py in the general population. IRs increased considerably around the age of 80 years and with a concomitant diagnosis of macular edema. The incidence rate ratio (IRR) was highest in patients of the age group of 45–54 years. In the nested case-control study, we identified 5800 patients with cataract. Risk of cataract increased with increasing diabetes duration (adj. OR 5.14, 95% CI 4.19–6.30 diabetes for ≥10 years vs. diabetes <2 years).


According to our study, diabetes is associated with an approximately two-fold increased detection rate of cataract. The risk of cataract associated with diabetes is highest at younger ages. Patients with diabetic macular edema are at an increased risk for cataract as well as patients with long-standing diabetes.

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We thank Dr Annette Beiderbeck (Alimera Science Ophthalmologie GmbH, Berlin, Germany), Dr John Hall (Alimera Science Ltd, Aldershot, UK) for their scientific input during the conduct of the study, and Pascal Egger (Basel Pharmacoepidemiology Unit; University of Basel, Switzerland) for his technical support and programming.


The study was supported by an unconditional grant of Alimera Science Ltd.

Author information


  1. Basel Pharmacoepidemiology Unit, Division of Clinical Pharmacy and Epidemiology, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

    • Claudia Becker
    • , Cornelia Schneider
    •  & Christoph Meier
  2. Hospital Pharmacy, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland

    • Cornelia Schneider
    •  & Christoph Meier
  3. Creative Ceutical Ltd, London, UK

    • Samuel Aballéa
  4. University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Bristol, UK

    • Clare Bailey
  5. Vision and Eye Research Unit, Postgraduate Medical Institute, Faculty of Medical Science, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK

    • Rupert Bourne
  6. Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program, Boston University School of Public Health, Lexington, MA, USA

    • Susan Jick
  7. Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program, Lexington, MA, USA

    • Christoph Meier


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Conflicts of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christoph Meier.