What are the Risk Factors for Cataract?

Cataract clouds the natural lens of the eye causing loss of vision. Let’s note the factors that increase your risk of cataracts.

Risk factors

  • Aging- Aging is major cause of age related cataract most commonly known.
  • Genetics- Some having a family history of cataracts may inherit from parents genetically.
  • Congenital cataract- Some children are born with cataract.
  • Ethnicity-Evidence suggests that our ethnic ancestry influences the likelihood of developing cataracts.
  • Female gender-Studies have reported that women are more likely to develop cataracts than men.
  • Medical conditions
    • Diabetes- Diabetes type 1 or 2 has a high risk factor for cataract at a younger age. The accumulation of certain sugars in the blood leads to formation of sugar alcohols in the lens which causes swelling and rupturing of the lens cells causing cataract due to diabetes. Managing blood glucose at normal or near normal levels is hence important.
    • Hypertension- High blood pressure is seen as a risk factor.
    • Obesity- Studies shows the effect of diet high in saturated fat and occurrence of cataract. Obesity boosts blood sugar levels which in turn increase risk of cataracts.
    • Eye Trauma- Blunt trauma, penetrating trauma, chemical injuries and electrical injuries. It is advisable to wear protective eye gear as per requirement.
    • Previous eye surgery- Eye surgeries such as surgery for a retinal detachment can increase the risk of developing a cataract.
    • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications (commonly called steroids) pose a particularly high risk.g. Steroids are used to treat autoimmune diseases such as asthma and Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupusetc resulting in cataract as a side effect.
    • Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol- Studies suggest that the risk for cataract is high among Statin users as compared with nonusers.
  • Life style risk factors
    • Drinking excessive alcohol– Chronic drinkers under high risk for cataract. Avoid excessive use of alcohol.
    • Smoking Smoking can increase your risk of developing cataract Avoid smoking.
  • Environmental risk factors
    • Excessive exposure to sunlight – Over exposure to ultraviolet (UV)radiation is risk factor for nuclear cataract. It is advisable for people whose jobs are exposed them to sunlight for prolonged periods to use sunglasses with 100% UV protection.
    • Exposure to ionizing radiation- Exposure used in X-rays and cancer radiation therapy may cause cataract.
    • Poor nutrition-Vision researchers believe that a diet high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates may be linked to the development of cataracts. Healthy diet rich in antioxidants helps in risk reduction of cataract.

Regular eye exams can detect early occurrence of cataracts. Further research is in progress to develop interventions that will have an impact on their prevalence. Sometimes in some persons one or more risk factors never develop the disease, while in some persons it develops having no known risk factors. Nevertheless the understanding of the risk factors aids in the management of cataract.

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