Most cataracts are due to age-related changes in the lens. However, other factors can contribute to their development including:
- Diabetes mellitus - Persons with diabetes are at higher risk for cataracts.
- Drugs - Certain medications have been found to be associated with the development of a cataract. These include:
- Chlorpromazine and other phenothiazine related medications
Ultraviolet radiation - Studies have shown that there is an increased chance of cataract formation with unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Smoking - An association between smoking and increased nuclear opacities has been reported.
Alcohol - Several studies have shown increased cataract formation in patients with higher alcohol consumption compared with people who have lower or no alcohol consumption.
Nutritional deficiency - Although the results are inconclusive, studies have suggested an association between cataract formation and low levels of antioxidants (e.g. vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids). Further studies may show that antioxidants have a significant effect on decreasing cataract development.
Rarely, cataracts can be present at birth or develop shortly after. They may be inherited or develop due to an infection, i.e. rubella, in the mother during pregnancy. A cataract may also develop following an injury to the eye or surgery for another eye problem, such as glaucoma.
While there are no clinically proven approaches to preventing cataracts, simple preventive strategies include reducing exposure to sunlight through UV blocking lenses, decreasing or discontinuing smoking and increasing antioxidant vitamin intake through consumption of leafy green vegetables and nutritional supplements.
©2014-2015 American Optometric Association