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What Causes Cataracts and How to Prevent Them

What Causes Cataracts and How to Prevent Them

What causes cataracts? A cataract forms abnormal deposits in the eye’s natural lens, which can lead to several visual problems such as cloudiness. Middle-aged and older adults usually experience this eye condition. According to a study, over 22 million adults in the US, over the age of 40, suffer from cataracts.

When a person has a healthy lens, it focuses light onto the retina to achieve a clear image. So when the lens forms clouding, it is like a hazy camera lens, which cannot produce a clear picture.

Overall Eye Health: All You Need to Know

Symptoms of Cataracts

If you are not sure whether you have a cataract or not, here are the major signs and symptoms:

  • Experiencing a clouded, dim, or blurred vision
  • Having difficulty with vision especially at night
  • Getting more sensitive to lights and glares
  • Needing for brighter light when reading
  • Seeing “halos” surrounding the lights
  • Frequently changing your prescription on eyeglasses or contact lens
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Having a double vision in a single eye

What Causes Cataracts and Risk Factors

The eyes become cloudy primarily because of increasing age, but it can also be associated with genetics or health problems like diabetes or trauma. Even long-term usage of steroid medications can be a factor why the lens suffers from cloudiness.

What causes cataracts can be influenced by these risk factors:

  • Smoking
  • Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources
  • Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Nearsightedness or high myopia
  • Family health background
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation

what causes cataracts

Cataract Types

These are the four common types of cataracts.

Nuclear cataracts

This affects the nucleus, which is located in the central region of the lens and may initially cause nearsightedness or a temporary change in your reading vision. But over time, your lens will turn thickly yellow and you will experience hardening and cloudiness in your vision.

Cortical cataracts

Unlike nuclear cataracts, this starts on the peripheral or the outer edge of the lens that produces whitish streaks or wedge-shaped opacities or usually known as cortical spokes. Slowly, it stretches to the center that can block or impair someone’s vision.

Posterior subcapsular cataracts

The cataracts form behind the lens and progress faster than other cataract types. Oftentimes, it interrupts a person’s reading vision, minimizes the vision in bright light, and causes halos around lights during night time.

Congenital cataracts

There are several people with cataracts that they got since birth and it’s called congenital cataracts. It can be genetic or connected with intrauterine infection. Although this condition doesn’t always affect someone’s vision, if it does, cataracts should be removed as soon as possible after detection.


As of today, there are still no studies that prove how a person can prevent cataracts. But here are some helpful ways of how you can reduce your risk factors and maintain your eye health.

Have a regular doctor visit

Even if you have clear and healthy eyes, routine visits will help your doctor assess the signs of cataracts and other vision disorders at their earlier stages.

Maintain a diet rich in essential nutrients

Having a diet that is abundant with vitamins and minerals such as beta-carotene, selenium, and vitamin E is linked with reducing your risk of developing cataracts.

Quit smoking

Research shows that when a person smokes, it doubles his risks of developing cataracts and it continues to increase based on how bad his smoking habit is.

Protect your eyes from UV rays

A study from John Hopkins in 2014 showed that persistent exposure to sunlight increases one’s risk of cataracts. When you are spending outside for a long period of time, take a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with you to block ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Always check your diabetes condition

It is found that having diabetes has greater chances of developing cataracts. That is why keeping your diabetes under control by maintaining healthy blood sugar is crucial for your overall eye health.

Cut back on your alcohol consumption

Just like cigarettes, too much alcohol consumption can give you serious health risks, including your chance of having cataracts. Whether it is a beer, wine, or whisky, always drink in moderation.

Cataract Treatment

Surgery is the only procedure to eliminate cataracts. If the symptoms are relatively mild, it is advised to visit an eye professional to get a new prescription for eyeglasses or contacts. But if the cataracts keep you from doing things you need or want to do, this is the time when you should consider surgery.

How does it work? The eye’s cloudy natural lens will be taken off and be replaced with an artificial lens called intraocular lens or IOL.

After a couple of years, you may experience blurred vision again because the eye’s capsule, the part of your eye that holds the IOL in place, may form cloudiness. The way to treat this condition is through capsulotomy, which uses a laser to open the cloudy capsule and restore your clear vision.

Key Takeaways

What causes cataracts? There are many reasons that may lead to the development of cataracts. However, no matter what type of cataract you have, it is important to visit your ophthalmologist on a regular basis. The doctor can identify and suggest treatment options before you even experience any symptoms of your eye problems.

If you have healthy eyes, always watch what you eat and the things you do to reduce your risks of cataracts and keep your overall eye health in good shape.

Learn more about Eye Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Cataracts: Symptoms and causes, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353790, Accessed December 17, 2020

Cataract Treatment, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/cataracts-treatment, Accessed December 17, 2020

Causes and Risk Factors of Cataract, https://www.zeiss.com/vision-care/int/better-vision/health-prevention/causes-and-risk-factors-of-cataract.html, Accessed December 17, 2020


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Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos Updated Dec 18, 2020
Medically reviewed by Victor Ephraime V. Paulino, MD, DPBO