Doctor consultation about causes and risk factors of cataract

Causes and Risk Factors of Cataract

Cataracts are caused by a gradual clouding of the natural lens of the eye. A healthy lens focuses light onto the retina for a clear image. If it becomes increasingly cloudy, the eye is no longer able to produce a clear picture – just like a foggy camera lens.

Normal vision vs. vision with cataract

Normal vision (left) | Vision with cataract (right)

Why does the eye become cloudy

The lens is mostly made of water and a protein that is necessary for keeping it clear and letting light pass through. As we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is the actual cataract, which grows larger over time and affects a bigger part of the lens, making it gradually harder to see clearly.

The most common factor causing a cataract is increasing age, but some may also be related to genetics or health problems, such as other eye conditions, diabetes, trauma or past eye surgery. Long-term use of steroid medications, can cause cataracts to develop, too.

Some risk factors that may influence the development of the disease

  • Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources 
  • Hypertension 
  • Obesity 
  • Smoking 
  • Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation 
  • Hormone replacement therapy 
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • High myopia 
  • Family history

Keep an eye on your health, if you are affected by one of these risk factors, and visit your ophthalmologist regularly. Your ophthalmologist can detect and recommend treatment options for problematic changes in your eye long before you become aware of any symptoms.

Elderly woman cooking

Factors That May Delay the Development of Cataracts

Even though there is a significant controversy about whether cataracts can be prevented and there are no studies to prove the effectiveness of preventive measures, experts suggest some strategies that may be helpful:

Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful UV radiation when you are outdoors because ultraviolet light from the sun may contribute to the development of cataracts.

Reduce alcohol intake and cigarette consumption, because excessive alcohol intake and smoking can increase the risk of cataracts.

Manage other health problems. Follow your physician’s recommendations and treatment plan, if you have diabetes or other medical conditions.

Maintain a healthy weight by exercising and getting the right nutrition. If you are overweight, steadily increase exercise and reduce your calorie intake.

Eat healthy. Many studies suggest certain nutrients are good for the eyes and may reduce the risk of cataracts. Vitamin E is good for protecting and strengthening the eye. Good food sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds and spinach.

Contact a physician if you are interested in more information on an eye-healthy lifestyle.

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