“Vision” by Victoria Ford is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cadmium, Smoking and Atherosclerosis Linked to Decreased Visual Function

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Vision” by Victoria Ford is licensed under CC BY 2.0Adam J. Paulsen MS

Associate Researcher
EpiSense Research Program
Department of Ophthalmology&  Visual Sciences
University of Wisconsin – Madison

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Contrast Sensitivity is a measure of visual function that indicates how well a person is able to distinguish an object against its background.  Tests of CS determine how faint a visual signal can be identified.  CS can be diminished even in those with appropriately corrected visual acuity, has been shown to have effects on daily activities (including near vision tasks), risk of falls, and driving ability.  The causes of and risks for CS impairment are understudied.  Cadmium (Cd) and Lead (Pb) are known neurotoxins that have been shown to accumulate in the retina.  Both Cd and Pb have common sources of exposure in the general population.  Our studied aimed to investigate risk factors for incident CS impairment, including Cd and Pb exposure.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Incident Contrast Sensitivity impairment was relatively common in the Beaver Dam Offspring Study (BOSS), a longitudinal cohort study of aging adults, with 24.8% of participants developing the impairment over 10-years of follow-up, and was higher among older age groups.  Cadmium, but not lead, exposure was associated with increased risk of developing CS impairment.  Atherosclerosis, central adiposity, and smoking were also found to be associated with increased risk.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Contrast Sensitivity impairment is common and has important implications for individuals’ health and public health in general.  The current study indicates that the decrease in visual function has potentially preventable risk, including avoidance of Cadmium exposure, smoking, and by taking strides to improve cardiovascular health. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Additional research is needed to replicate the findings of this study, and to help to identify the exact mechanism by which Cd exposure may contribute to decline in visual function.  Additionally, while no association was found between lead and Contrast Sensitivity impairment, levels of Pb exposure in this cohort were relatively low.  Additional study, perhaps in a population with greater levels of exposure, could potentially add to the evidence on the relationship between lead and visual function.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: This study was made possible by the participants of the BOSS, whose volunteerism is greatly appreciated and invaluable. This study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Eye Institute, and Research to Prevent Blindness.  The views expressed do not represent official policy or position of these institutions.   


Paulsen AJ, Schubert CR, Johnson LJ, et al. Association of Cadmium and Lead Exposure With the Incidence of Contrast Sensitivity Impairment Among Middle-aged Adults. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online September 13, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.3931

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Sep 14, 2018 @ 12:29 pm




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