Karen J. Cruickshanks, PhD

Karen J. Cruickshanks, PhD




Department of Population Health Sciences
UW Institute on Aging
Director of Graduate Programs in Population Health Vice Chair

Research Interests

Epidemiology of age-related ocular disorders, hearing loss, diabetes

  • Age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, epidemiology, vision and aging
  • Epidemiology of age-related sensory and cognitive impairments
  • The roles of vascular disease, inflammation and metabolic dysregulation in age-related sensorineural diseases

My research program is studying the health problems of aging. The cornerstone of the research is two epidemiological population-based cohort studies. The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study, now in its 13th year, is funded by the National Institute on Aging (AG11099) to study hearing, olfaction, cognition, physical function and quality of life in 3500 older residents of Beaver Dam, WI. In 2004, a new cohort study was funded by the National Institute of Aging, National Eye Institute and National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (AG021917) to study the adult offspring of these participants (ages 21-74 yrs in 2005). This new multi-generational study of the Beaver Dam families will help us understand the genetic and environmental factors which contribute to age-related sensory impairments and provide new epidemiologic data on the prevalence of sensory impairments (vision, hearing, smell, and taste), sensory disorders, and subclinical atherosclerosis in the post-war baby-boomer generation. A major theme of our research is the link between subclinical atherosclerosis and the sensory and neurological disorders of aging.

Research Highlights

Dr. Cruickshanks is a leader in epidemiology studies focused on aging and developed the Beaver Dam Offspring Study to study factors associated with developing age-related sensory and cognitive disorders. Collaborators include Drs. Barbara Klein, Ronald Klein, and Judy Chen. In this middle-aged cohort, baseline measures of visual and olfactory impairments, cardiovascular risk factors and cardiovascular disease were associated with the risk of cognitive decline over a 10 year period. These early risk factors may be useful for identifying people who would benefit from early treatment and improve cognitive outcomes later in life.
Sensorineural impairments, cardiovascular risk factors, and 10-year incidence of cognitive impairment and decline in mMidlife: The Beaver Dam Offspring Study

Dr. Cruickshanks collaborated with Drs. Ronald and Barbara Klein to study exposure to sunlight and the prevalence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in participants of the Beaver Dam Eye Study. This was the first population-based study to find an association between greater exposure to sunlight and AMD. These results were confirmed in subsequent longitudinal studies and suggest that greater exposure to visible light may contribute to the risk of developing AMD. The work has been cited over 550 times to date.
Sunlight and age-related macular degeneration: The Beaver Dam Eye Study


PhD 1987, Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

BA 1977, Biology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT