Ninety-four consecutive patients admitted for elective cataract surgery were prospectively examined for erythrocyte galactokinase activity. The presumed etiology for the cataract was established by history and physical examination in 51 patients (21 were diabetic). The cataract was classified as idiopathic in 43 patients. Galactokinase activity was significantly lower in idiopathic vs. presumed (nondiabetic) etiology patients 50 years of age or younger (P < 0.05) and in idiopathic cataract patients 50 years of age or younger vs. those older than 51 years of age (P = 0.0033). Three of the idiopathic cataract patients (6.9%) had galactokinase levels less than two standard deviations below the mean galactokinase level for age-matched patients with suspected (nondiabetic) etiology. Compared with the expected distribution for the heterozygote in the general population (02%), this was highly significant (P = 0.0001). Diminished galactokinase activity may increase the risk of developing presenile cataracts requiring surgery by the fourth decade.
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