Cause – What is the main cause of cataracts?

Most cataracts are age-related. As people grow older, the proteins in the lens of their eye can start to break down, which results in the lens becoming cloudy. Over time, this clouding leads to the symptoms commonly associated with cataracts. Nobody knows what causes these changes to occur, but around 30% of adults over the age of 65 will have a cataract that affects their vision and requires surgery. 

Cataracts can also be caused by drinking too much alcohol, smoking, diabetes, and taking steroids or steroid-based medication. If you’ve suffered an eye injury in the past, or had eye surgery, you may also be more likely to develop cataracts.  

Cataracts are the most common cause of vision impairment and blindness in the world. There are three main types of cataracts:  

  • Subcapsular cataracts, which form at the back of the lens – people with diabetes or people taking steroids have a higher risk of developing a subcapsular cataract. 
  • Nuclear cataracts, which form in the centre of the lens – these are usually associated with ageing.  
  • Cortical cataracts, which form at the edge of the lens and then gradually increase in size and make their way to the centre of the lens – these are characterised by white blotches and again, are usually associated with ageing. 

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