What Causes Cataracts?

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Cataracts affect a huge number of people. Over half of Americans that are aged 80 or over have a cataract or have had cataract-removal surgery. As cataracts start off quite small, it can often be some time before our vision is impacted by them, and some people won’t notice them at all at first.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a cloudy area on the lens of your eye. It usually starts off quite small and can then begin to get bigger over time.

As the cataract gets larger it blocks the amount of light that gets into your eye, which can impede your vision and cause symptoms like:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Difficulty seeing at night.
  • Difficulty seeing delicate, close-up tasks such as sewing.
  • Change in color vision. People with cataracts can often experience the colors they see taking on a brown or yellow tinge, and it can become more difficult to tell colors apart.

Common causes

Cataracts are common in older people. The lens in our eye is completely clear when we are younger, and then as we get older the proteins in the lens of the eye start to break down and clump together which is what causes cataracts. Cataracts can also be caused by medical conditions such as diabetes, past eye surgeries or trauma to the eye or by some genetic disorders. The long term use of steroid medication is also thought to be a cause of cataracts.


If cataracts aren’t too severe, their effects can be mitigated through the use of glasses, or by using extra light to perform tasks. The only way to completely reverse a cataract is through cataract surgery. Cataract surgeons remove the cloudy lens of the eye and replace it with an artificial one that is completely clear. When you have cataract surgery you will often have a choice over the type of lens that you have implanted, and it’s usually possible to get a lens that will correct other vision problems at the same time such as being nearsighted or farsighted.


It’s common for cataracts to form as we age, however, there are some things that we can do to make their formation less likely.

Smoking is thought to be a cause of cataracts, as it causes oxidation in the lens of the eye and could also cause the accumulation of heavy metals. It’s for this reason that stopping smoking is one of the most important things that you can do to prevent the formation of cataracts.

It’s also important that you protect your eyes from sun damage by wearing sunglasses that offer UV protection, and always wearing a wide-brimmed hat when you are out in the sun.

You can also do a great deal to protect the health of your eyes by eating a good diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.

Finally, if you are over 60 then it’s important that you attend your recommended eye exams as this will mean that you pick up on the formation of cataracts much sooner.


About the author

Jike Eric

Jike Eric has completed his degree program in Chemical Engineering. Jike covers Business and Tech news on Insider Paper.

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