Is Exposure to Lead, Cadmium Associated With Reduced Ability to See Contrast?

Bottom Line: Contrast sensitivity is a measure of how well someone sees an image against a background. Diminished contrast sensitivity can impact daily life because common low-contrast conditions include low light, fog or glare. Understanding what might contribute to a decrease in contrast sensitivity is important. An observational study of nearly 2,000 people taking part in an ongoing study of aging examined whether exposure to the heavy metals cadmium and lead was associated with increased risk of impaired contrast sensitivity. Results of the study suggest cadmium exposure, but not lead, was among the factors associated with increased risk. Cadmium exposure typically happens through inhaling cigarette smoke and eating green leafy vegetables, rice and shellfish. Limitations of the study include that no definitive conclusions can be drawn and that the association could be due to another element of cigarette smoking.

Authors: Adam J. Paulsen, M.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison, and coauthors

Related material: The commentary, “Examining the Association of Cadmium With Contrast Sensitivity,” by Xiang Li, Ph.D., Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Raritan, New Jersey, is available on the For The Media website. 

To Learn More: The full study is available on the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.3931)