Why Do I Have Cataracts?
A cataract occurs when the natural lens becomes cloudy, making it more challenging to see. The natural lens should be transparent.
But with age or due to other factors, proteins in your eyes build up on your lens, forming cataracts. Cataracts typically cause gradual and painless vision loss and can eventually lead to blindness without treatment.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. The good news is cataracts are treatable through cataract surgery, and you can recover any vision loss during the procedure.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes cataracts, the signs of cataracts, and when to have cataract surgery.
Causes of Cataracts
The following are some of the causes of cataracts:
Age is the most common cause of cataracts. As you grow older, some of the proteins in your eyes may begin to break down and clump together on your lens, making it more cloudy.
Other factors that may cause cataracts to develop early include:
A congenital cataract happens when a baby is born with cataracts. Some of the causes of congenital cataracts include:
- Drug reactions
- Metabolic problems
- Infections like rubella or measles
- A faulty gene being passed from a parent to a child
Congenital cataracts can occur in one or both eyes. If not treated early, congenital cataracts lead to vision problems and even blindness.
Because of this, congenital cataracts are usually removed as early as possible, like when a baby is 1 or 2 months old. Removing cataracts ensures clear vision and supports your baby’s healthy development.
You’re twice as likely to get cataracts when you have diabetes as those who don’t have it. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in your eyes.
Damage to these blood vessels accelerates the formation of cataracts.
Uncontrolled blood glucose can also lead to high sugar levels in your aqueous humor.
The aqueous humor is the gel-like, clear fluid in the front of the eye. It nourishes your eye and helps it maintain its shape. The high sugar levels in your aqueous humor can cause swelling, contributing to cataract formation.
A traumatic cataract is a result of an injury to your eye. The eye injury can lead to damage that can cause a part of your lens to become cloudy.
Traumatic cataracts may be due to the following:
- Blunt trauma
- Penetrating trauma
- Chemical burn
- Electric shock
- Laser or infrared lights
A traumatic cataract may form immediately or years after these eye injuries.
Smoking cigarettes or exposure to second-hand smoke over a long period is linked to cataracts. According to experts, you’re two to three times more likely to get cataracts if you smoke.
Cigarette smoke contains toxins that lead to oxidation in cells found in the lens of your eye. Oxidation can result in structural damage to your lens, contributing to cataract development.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of cataracts compared to those who drink moderately or don’t drink at all.
Lack of vitamins and antioxidants like vitamins C and E, lycopene, beta-carotene, and selenium has been linked to cataracts. Antioxidants neutralize oxidants called free radicals.
Neutralizing free radicals prevents them from causing damage to your eyes and the rest of your body. If you don’t include enough antioxidants in your diet, it may increase your risk of developing cataracts.
Long-term exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays damages the proteins in your lens, causing cataracts. Additionally, radiation to treat specific forms of head and neck cancers can accelerate cataract formation.
Some medications can also cause cataracts. Prolonged use of the following medications has been associated with early cataract development:
- Lovastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug
- Chlorpromazine, a sedative
- Phenytoin, an anti-seizure drug used in epilepsy
- Corticosteroids like prednisone are used to reduce inflammation
Signs of Cataracts
Often, cataracts develop slowly and don’t affect your vision right away. But with time, you may start to notice the following symptoms:
- Blurred or cloudy vision
- Colors appearing faded or dull
- Glare and halos
- Poor night vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Frequent prescription changes
- Double vision in one eye
- Need for brighter lighting for up-close activities
- Second sight or temporary improvement in vision
When Should You Get Your Cataracts Removed?
Typically, cataracts take many years to develop before worsening. Most patients don’t need to have their cataracts immediately removed during the early stages.
However, if it feels dangerous to drive at night, you no longer feel able to take part in your favorite hobbies, or you can no longer see clearly, it could be time to have cataract surgery. Most cataract surgeons suggest the procedure once cataracts start to significantly interfere with vision and the ability to perform simple, routine activities.
Undergoing cataract surgery is the only way to remove cataracts and regain your ability to see clearly. The procedure involves removing the cloudy natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens or IOL.
Removing cataracts and replacing the natural lens with an intraocular lens is the only way to treat cataracts and see clearly again.
Choose the Best Cataract Surgeon
If you’re experiencing any signs of cataracts or think it may be time for cataract surgery, it’s time to see Dr. Tokuhara at Desert Vision Center. Dr. Tokuhara is extensively experienced in performing complex cataract surgery and has successfully helped thousands of cataract patients regain crystal-clear vision.
Do you suspect you have cataracts? Call us today at Desert Vision Center in Rancho Mirage, CA, to find out if you have cataracts and whether cataract surgery is necessary. Isn’t it time to see clearly?