Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness all over the world. They result in clouded lenses which are easily treated in their early stages and can be treated with surgery if you qualify for the procedure. Despite the fact that they’re so common, it’s still important to understand what can cause cataracts so you know what to expect if you develop them.
The most common cause of cataracts is aging, with half of Americans having some type of cataract by the age of 75. Genetics can also play an important role if you have a family history of the condition. Other causes can be controlled or managed, such as smoking, UV exposure, and diabetes. One surprising cause of cataracts is eye injuries, which can result in the development of cataracts much earlier than normal.
1. Cataracts and Aging
The most common cause of cataracts is aging. The proteins in the lenses of our eyes begin to break down around the age of 40, causing clouded vision. Over 24 million Americans are believed to have cataracts by the age of 40, and half of Americans are expected to have cataracts by the age of 75.
Cataracts can be forming long before symptoms become noticeable. For instance, symptoms such as clouded vision don’t usually become apparent until around 60 years old. This is why staying on top of your vision health is so important. Cataracts are easily navigated during their early stages and may be treatable with surgery when they become more advanced.
2. Family History and Cataracts
Family history can play a crucial role in your risk for multiple health issues, including cataracts. While everyone is at risk for cataracts due to aging, some people may be more at risk due to their genetics. In fact, having a close relative with cataracts can greatly increase your chances of developing them than someone with no family history of the condition.
Talk to your family members about cataracts as well as other health issues since this could be a sign of what to expect in the future. Make sure to update your ophthalmologist and the rest of your healthcare team about anything you may learn. This can help them know what to check for during appointments and be prepared for treatment if it becomes necessary.
Smoking can wreak havoc on your health and your vision is no exception. In fact, smoking can significantly increase your chances of developing certain eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). According to the Center for Disease Control and (CDC), smokers are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts than nonsmokers.
Many causes of cataracts, such as aging and family history, are beyond our control. Smoking, on the other hand, is something that we can control for the benefit of our own health. The best thing would be to never start in the first place. The next best option would be to quit immediately to help slow down or even prevent these vision problems from occurring.
Like smoking, diabetes can have broad and long-lasting effects on your eye health. As a matter of fact, diabetes is a key indicator of your risk for developing cataracts. The reason for this still isn’t fully understood. However, we do know that those living with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts than those without the disease.
The best way for diabetics to prevent cataracts is to keep their blood sugar levels under control. According to one study, those with type 2 diabetes can reduce their risk of cataracts by 19% if they lower their glucose levels by 1%. This will help lower their risk of cataracts as well other eye-related conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.
5. Prolonged UV Exposure
The sun’s radiation can do more than damage your skin — it can also do long-term harm to your eyes. UV rays don’t have to come from the sun to harm your vision. This is why you should be aware of artificial light as much as the natural light we receive from the sun.
Cataracts are a natural part of growing older. However, repeated exposure to UV radiation without eye protection can amplify and speed up this process. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, so it’s important to protect yourself however you can.
The best way to protect yourself from UV rays is to invest in a quality pair of sunglasses. This may take a little bit of looking, but the results are well worth it. When buying sunglasses, whether they’re prescription or not, choose a pair with:
- UV absorption
- A good fit
- Durable lenses
- Quality lenses
When checking for UV absorption, look for sunglasses with 99 – 100% UV protection. Pairs labeled “400nm” are also good since that means they have 100% UV absorption. Fit is important since poorly fitting frames can still allow light to get in your eyes. Choose frames that fit closely without touching your eyelashes and are even with your brow.
You want durable lenses since you’ll probably be wearing your sunglasses while on the go, and this is especially important if you lead an active lifestyle. Poor quality lenses can make it harder to see clearly, so try them on beforehand to make sure that you can see through the lenses without any distorted vision.
Surprising Cause of Cataracts: Eye Injuries
One cause of cataracts that surprises a lot of patients are eye injuries. Hurting your eye is bad enough, but the knowledge that it could lead to a cataract can make it even worse. That’s why you should always visit your eye doctor after an eye injury, regardless of whether it seems serious or not. They will be able to keep track of it for any issues further down the road.
Like glaucoma, traumatic cataracts come in blunt and penetrating types. Different types of trauma can cause cataracts to form in different ways. What’s important is that you notify your eye doctor of the injury as soon as possible. They will be able to treat your immediate injury as well as help you prepare for cataract treatment if it becomes necessary.
Cataracts can be caused by a variety of factors. While aging is the most common, genetics also play a role that must be taken into consideration. Other causes such as smoking, diabetes, and UV exposure can be maintained or even controlled with proper treatment and precautions. Injuries are a surprising cause of cataracts and should be discussed with your eye doctor in case they result in cataracts later on in life.
Have you experienced any of these possible causes of cataracts? Are you concerned you have a heightened risk for developing cataracts? If so, contact us today and schedule your comprehensive eye exam.
Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN. Give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information or to schedule an appointment.