What causes cataracts?

Cataracts are caused by clouding of the lens inside the eye. This is a clear part of your eye that helps to focus light, or an image, on the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

The lens is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. But as we age, some of the protein may clump together causing cloudiness in a small area of the lens – a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and affect more of the lens, making it harder to see.

The older you get, the more likely you are to develop cataract. Women are at greater risk of cataract development than men. Some people may be born with cataracts or develop them during childhood. These are known as “congenital cataracts” and may not noticeably affect vision until the individual develops additional lens changes later in life.

A number of factors have been shown to increase the risk of cataract formation. They also apply to younger age groups, and include:

  • Diabetes
  • Previous eye trauma
  • Other eye conditions
  • Steroid medication prescribed over a long period of time
  • Family history of cataracts

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