Date of Conferral
Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
Around the world, women are subject to an earlier incidence of cataracts, have a higher risk for cataracts, and also have a higher risk for other vision-related problems than men. Previous research has indicated an association between endogenous lead stored in long bones and cataracts in men over 60 years of age; however, a similar study in women did not reveal an association. This case control study was conducted to investigate whether perimenopausal mobilization of endogenous lead serves as a possible causative factor for women's generalized vision issues and cataract incidence in particular. Secondary data were gathered from 1,416 women aged 40 to 55 years of age from the 2005-2006 and 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Variables of interest included vision-related issues, cataract surgeries, bone density data, blood lead levels, and markers of lead mobilization. The results of the logistic regression analysis in the absence of confounders (OR = 1.50, 95% CI [1.08, 2.09]) indicated that endogenous lead is a possible causative factor for the low-level vision problems women experience during their perimenopausal years. Chi-square analysis of mobilized lead was also associated with cataract surgeries, p < .05. This appears to be the first report of a possible association between lead and cataracts in women and highlights the need for women to be studied in the context of their biology when their clinical results differ from those of men. These results should engender positive social change initiatives to minimize women's perimenopausal exposure to endogenous lead. Recommendations for further research include a case control study, which includes plasma lead levels, and a longitudinal study.