Cataracts

Causes

The proteins in the lens of your eye gradually change shape and clump together as you age. With time, your lens tissue becomes thicker, less flexible, and less transparent. The color of the lens changes too, becoming yellowish as the lens is stained by the protein clumps. Eventually, the discolored lens begins to block the light coming through your pupil. Everything starts to look darker, browner, and less distinct.  

Risk Factors

Many conditions and lifestyle habits make cataracts more likely to develop. These risk factors include: 

  • Aging (the most important risk factor)
  • Diabetes
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Inadequate vitamin intake
  • Obesity
  • Excessive exposure to ionizing radiation, such as that used in X-rays and cancer radiation therapy
  • Family history of cataracts
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications (such as prednisone)

Last Updated November 2016