Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Common Causes of Cataracts

Many people wonder what causes Cataracts. For some, they are seeking to do whatever they can to prevent a Cataract from forming. For others, they are looking for ways of treating Cataracts that might not involve Cataract Surgery. Here are some things you should know about Cataracts and the risk factors for Cataract development.

First, the single most significant risk factor for developing a Cataract is your age. Senile Cataracts are the most frequent type of Cataract encountered by patients and they are related to the normal aging process. The data are clear that as we age, the likelihood of developing a Cataract increases so that people in their late 50’s and early 60’s may have about a 50% chance of developing a Cataract and for those aged 65-75 years old the likelihood increases to 60% or more. However, there are a number of risk factors that can increase the chances of or directly lead to the formation of Cataracts. These include:

Cigarette Smoking-There are many adverse health effects of smoking cigarettes and you can add and increased risk of Cataract formation to that list. Whether it is because smoking reduces the available of nutrients and oxygen required to keep the crystalline lens healthy or some other factor is not yet clear but smoking cigarettes is a problem.

Use of Steroids-There are a number of people who need to take prescribed steroids such as prednisone for long periods of time in order to quiet the symptoms of asthma or arthritis. It is not uncommon that the use of steroids for 1-2 years in moderate to high doses can increase the risk of Cataract formation. While taking low doses of steroids daily, say 10 mg or less per day, may only increase the risk of Cataracts by 10% or so, the risk may increase to 30% if you take 10-15 mg daily and even to 80% if you need to take more than 15 mg per day.

Eye Injuries and Trauma-Any external injury to the eye creating a blunt trauma or even certain chemicals can result in a Cataract somewhere later in time. Any internal or penetrating injury to the eye often results in a cataract forming immediately.

Exposure to Sunlight and Ionizing Radiation-Many studies have demonstrated a clear relationship between excessive exposure to sunlight and the formation of Cataracts. It is a well know fact that prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun may increase the risk of Cataract formation two fold.

Diabetes-People with diabetes are known to be at higher risk for Cataract development and often develop Cataracts at earlier ages. While the exact reason is unknown there is suspicion that accumulation of sugars such as sorbitol in the crystalline lens actually promotes the formation of Cataracts.

Obesity-Studies have demonstrated a relationship between being overweight and the development of Cataracts. Again while the exact mechanism is not clear there is suspicion that obesity is often accompanied by high blood glucose levels as well as possibly indicating a poor diet lacking in the benefits of the antioxidant properties of fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables. Thus diet can have an effect on cataract formation.

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