What Causes Cataracts?


Quick Answer

When a person ages, the proteins in the lens of the eye can cluster together, causing that area of the lens to lose its transparency and not allow light to pass through. The lens of the eye reflects light onto the retina and is composed primarily of water and protein.

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Full Answer

Once clumps of proteins cloud the lens, they reduce the sharpness of the image that reaches the retina. Researchers postulate that smoking and diabetes can contribute to the formation or worsening of cataracts. Additionally, persons over the age of 60 may form cataracts just from the aging process.

Wearing good-quality sunglasses and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are ways to lessen the chance of forming cataracts or to at least slow down their growth. Small cataracts, or those that are in the early stages, can often be treated with new eyeglasses, reading with a brighter light and the use of a magnifier. If the cataract becomes too large and seriously interferes with good vision, surgery is very successful in treating the problem. Though there are different approaches to surgery, the outcome is that the problem lens is removed and either an artificial lens is put into the eye, or, if the patient cannot tolerate that procedure, contact lenses or high-magnification glasses are prescribed.

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