Cataract Culprits

Cataracts are an unavoidable side effect of aging. However, certain factors can increase the risk and expedite the onset of this condition. You can help keep your eyes at their healthiest by recognizing some of the accelerating factors of cataracts.

As you age, the lenses in your eyes become less flexible and transparent. They also become thicker. As cataracts develop, the clouding becomes denser and further worsens your vision.

Although most of us love to bask in its rays on a beautiful day, the sun can accelerate the onset of cataracts. Exposure beginning in childhood can increase the risk of cataracts as a result of the ultraviolet light in sunlight. You can protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that filter out ultraviolet light. Just be careful to avoid dark lenses that don’t filter it out, as they can increase your risk by allowing more ultraviolet light to penetrate the eyes.

Sunlight isn’t the only accelerator; smoking is also a culprit. Smoking damages the lens in your eye by leading to the formation of chemicals called free radicals. The buildup of these free radicals damages the cells in your eyes.

A recent study indicates that cataracts can also have a genetic component related to a deficiency of two genes that encode regulatory proteins. This deficiency leads to a clouding of the lens in the eye, which creates cataracts. Thankfully, this lens can be removed and replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).

Although most people who develop cataracts are over age 40, it is also possible to be born with cataracts. Congenital cataracts develop before birth if the mother has certain infections during pregnancy such as rubella or chickenpox. These cataracts can also be removed and the lens can be replaced with a clear IOL.

Other culprits of cataracts include:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Family history of cataracts
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Previous eye injury, surgery or inflammation
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications

Although cataracts are somewhat unavoidable, they can occur earlier in life under certain circumstances. Thankfully, if cataracts do develop in your eyes, they can be removed through cataract surgery. By practicing healthy habits and protecting your eyes, you can help to keep your vision clear.

To schedule an appointment, call Illinois Eye Center at (309) 243-2400 today.

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