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What causes cataract?

One of the most common questions patients ask is what causes cataract. I think they are asking how did I get cataract? Whilst we cannot say what caused a particular individuals cataract, with rare exceptions such as eye trauma, we can describe risk factors for developing cataract.

  • Age is the most common risk factor. Whilst only 2.9% of people aged 43 to 54 years have cataract this increases with age till 40% of those aged 75 or older will have cataract.
  • Female gender which may be associated with a decrease in oestrogen during menopause.
  • Race. Cataract is more common in Asians and begins 10 years earlier than Caucasians.
  • Myopia (short sightedness) is also a risk factor for cataract.

These are risk factors you cannot control. 

Risks you can control to reduce your chances of developing cataract are:

  • Smoking, also a very significant risk for developing age related macular degeneration.
  • Ultraviolet exposure to your eyes

Diseases associated with increased risk of cataract include:

  • Diabetes increases your risk of cataract up to 5 times.
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity and high blood lipids (metabolic syndrome)
  • Asthma with associated use of inhaled steroids
  • Autoimmune disease controlled with systemic steroids.
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Celiac disease
  • Sytemic Lupus (SLE)
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Wilsons disease (sunflower cataract)
  • Galactosemia
  • Lowe Syndrome
  • Marfan Syndrome
  • Alport Syndrome
  • Down Syndrome
  • Myotonic dystrophy
  • Neurofibromatsis 2