What Causes Cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding and thickening of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over 40, affecting 22 million Americans alone.

Although they can develop at different times for different people, cataracts are generally considered an inevitability–if you live long enough, eventually you’ll develop them. But our patients undergoing cataract surgery here in Charleston, SC, often want to know what could have contributed to their condition. Certain factors, some controllable and some not, can make you more vulnerable to cataracts. In this blog post, let’s examine some of the conditions and habits that are linked to cataract development.

  • Age: Age is by far the most significant factor; most cataract patients are over the age of 55.
  • Genetics: If either of your parents developed cataracts early in life, you may be at risk, too. Additionally, congenital cataracts are present in about 0.4 percent of all births.
  • UV light: Wearing high-quality sunglasses that provide broad-spectrum protection when you venture outdoors can stave off the development of cataracts. It’s a good idea to wear proper eye protection when you’re doing any sort of activity, such as welding, which exposes your eyes to radiant light.
  • Obesity: Being significantly overweight has been linked to early cataract development. Additionally, conditions associated with obesity, such as hypertension and diabetes, can lead to cataract development.
  • Medications: Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can contribute to the development of cataracts. These include corticosteroids, statins, and hormone replacement therapy. Be sure to talk to your doctor before discontinuing use of any medications. Depending on your individual risk factors for cataracts, the benefits of using medications may outweigh the risks.
  • Previous eye injury: If you’ve sustained an eye injury in the past or undergone a previous eye surgery, your risk of developing cataracts may be elevated.
  • Smoking and drinking: Both smoking tobacco and drinking heavily have ties to cataract development. You’ve already heard countless reasons why it’s a good idea to quit smoking–consider this one more.

Today’s cataract surgery options are quicker, more effective, and more comfortable than ever, so if you’ve been diagnosed with cataracts, there’s no need to fear. If you’d like to learn more about the condition, I invite you to browse some of our past blog posts on the topic to learn more.

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