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Understanding the Causes of Cataracts

Though cataracts are typically age-related, there are a number of other factors that can increase your risk for this condition. Factors such as diabetes, smoking, and genetics have been linked to their development. At Yonge Eglinton TLC Laser Eye Centre®, we will review the causes of cataracts with you at our Toronto, Ontario, practice so that you fully understand the health of your eye. Identifying any contributing factors will help us determine the best course of treatment for you. Contact us today to schedule an evaluation and learn more about the causes of cataracts.

Cataracts: An Overview

Illustration of cataractCataracts occur when protein cells break away from the natural structure of your eye. When this happens, the cells clump together, obscuring your lens. As the cataracts grow larger, your vision will gradually grow cloudy. Other cataract symptoms can include glare, halos, and difficulty seeing at night.

There are several types of cataracts:

  • Subcapsular: These cataracts develop at the back of the lens and are also referred to as posterior cataracts. 
  • Nuclear: Nuclear cataracts form in the center of the lens.
  • Cortical: Cortical cataracts start at the outside edges of the lens and work their way toward the center.

Cataract Causes and Risk Factors

Age is the most common cause of cataracts, especially nuclear cataracts. As we age, the structure of our eye changes, causing protein cells to naturally break away.

However, there are other factors that can increase your risk for cataracts, including:

  • Certain medications: Prolonged use of steroids, also called corticosteroids, can raise your risk for cataracts, as can statins and hormone replacement therapy drugs.
  • Smoking: Free radicals in cigarette smoke can damage the proteins and membranes in your lenses. When you smoke, your body will produce fewer antioxidants and enzymes, which cleanse damaged cells from your eyes.
  • Prolonged exposure to UV radiation: When your eye absorbs ultraviolet light, it will produce free radicals. If you work outdoors or spend large amounts of time in the sun, you may be at a higher risk for cataracts.
  • Poor nutrition: Research suggests that diets low in antioxidants, such as vitamin A and vitamin E, can compromise your eye health.
  • Alcohol consumption: Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day has been linked with a slightly higher risk for developing cataracts.
  • High level of myopia: If you are severely nearsighted, or if your myopia is degenerative, cataracts are more likely to develop.
  • Diabetes: There is a higher chance of developing cataracts if you have diabetes. In addition, patients with diabetes tend to develop cataracts at a younger age.   
  • Genetics: If your parents or grandparents had cataracts, you are more likely to develop the condition.  

Treatment for Cataracts

Fortunately, whatever the cause of your cataracts, we can treat the condition through a minimally invasive surgery. Cataract surgery involves creating a tiny incision in your eye, through which we will remove the clouded lens. We then replace the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL).

Our expert team can help you identify the best solutions for protecting and enhancing your vision.

We offer several types of IOLs, including monofocal, multifocal, and toric lenses. The right lens for you will depend on your vision and personal preferences. Once the new lens is in place, a protective shield (similar to a contact) is placed over your eye. Your eye will heal on its own, and after a few days, you should notice a significant improvement in your vision.

In addition to surgery, certain lifestyle changes may prevent the development of cataracts or slow their progression, such as improving your diet or quitting smoking. You could also talk to your primary care physician about switching your medications or controlling your blood sugar. Our expert team can help you identify the best solutions for protecting and enhancing your vision.

Learn More

The experienced surgeons at Yonge Eglinton TLC Laser Eye Centre® are skilled in the area of cataracts, and are ready to talk to you about your vision concerns, including the causes of cataracts. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.