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Causes and Risk Factors for Cataracts

Research scientists know how the lens clouds (see Age-Related Cataract Formation) and that certain things can increase a person's risk of developing cataracts. But researchers do not know what causes the lens to cloud. The search for these cataract causes is an active area of research.
Cataract research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop them. A risk factor is anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.
Specific risk factors for this condition include:
  • Age (the risk increases as you get older)
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Long-term alcohol use
  • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight
  • Lead exposure.

Types of Cataracts

Although most cataracts are related to aging, there are other types. Some of these other cataract types include:
  • Secondary
  • Traumatic
  • Congenital
  • Radiation.
The term "age-related" is a little misleading. You don't have to be a senior citizen to get this type of cataract. In fact, people can have an age-related cataract in their 40s and 50s. But during middle age, most are small and do not affect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts cause a decrease in vision.

Symptoms of Cataracts

There are several possible cataract symptoms. However, other eye problems can also cause these symptoms. Anyone with possible symptoms should see an eyecare professional. Only a qualified eyecare professional can diagnose and treat the problem.
Possible symptoms may include:
  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Lights seem very bright (glare)
  • Colors seem faded
  • Difficulty reading
  • Poor night vision
  • Double vision or multiple images in one eye (this may go away as the cataract gets larger)
  • Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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