What causes cataracts?

Cataracts are a natural age-related change that nearly everyone will experience in their lives to some degree. Cataract formation develops slowly over years if not decades with most patients initially having no symptoms at all. A cataract is simply a clouding of the lens structure, which is located behind your iris and pupil. Symptoms initially include increased glare at night and blurred or foggy feeling vision. Interestingly enough, cataracts are in fact the number one cause of blindness worldwide. However, thanks to modern medical techniques and practices in Canada this is rarely if ever the case.

Some studies suggest that excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure can increase the rate of cataract development.  This is why most optometrists recommend that their patients wear quality sunglasses that filter out 100% of the suns UV-A and UV-B rays.

Smoking has also been linked to cataract formation and numerous other eye diseases secondary to the increase of free-radical formation. So much so, that the Canadian Association of Optometrist is looking at running an eye health awareness campaign to highlight smoking related eye disease. Providing smokers yet another reasons to reduce their consumption or quit.

Certain medications, such as steroids, have also been linked to various types of cataract formation. Long-term steroid use required in the management of patients with asthma, Chrohn’s disease, arthritis, allergies or any other medical condition requiring strong anti-inflammatory control should be monitored more closely.

Patients who have diabetes also show a far higher prevalence towards cataract formation at a younger age. Diabetic cataracts are secondary to fluctuating blood sugar levels, which can cause the lens in the eye to swell and shrink. Eventually these fluctuations can cause damage to the cellular structure of the lens.

To determine if you have cataracts or if you have any risk factors, book an eye health examination with your optometrist.

Book your next eye exam in Sherwood Park with an eye-bar optometrist.

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