Devin M. Gattey, M.D.What Causes Cataracts?

Normal aging is the main cause of cataracts. As you get older, the previously clear cells in the lens of your eye become clouded, making your vision blurry. By age 80,
half of all Americans have cataracts. Women tend to get them sooner than men.

Less common cataract causes include:

  • Being born with cataracts
  • Chronic diseases, including diabetes
  • Medications, such as cortisone or prednisone
  • Eye trauma from an accident, injury or sometimes surgery
Normal eye
Eye with cataract

You may have heard that reading or sewing will make your cataracts worse, but this is a myth. The American Academy of Ophthalmology discusses some common myths about cataracts.

Besides normal aging, cataract risk factors include:

SmokingDrinking alcohol
Sun exposureEating a poor diet
Getting little exerciseHaving diabetes
Taking steroid medication like
prednisone and cortisone
Being obese and having high blood pressure

Do Doctors Know How to Prevent Cataracts?

So far, no specific treatment is proven to prevent cataracts. However, you can do some things to safeguard your general eye health, which could help prevent cataracts.

  • Eat a healthy diet – In studies, people who ate foods high in vitamins and minerals had fewer cataracts. Learn more about eye-healthy food choices.
  • Stop smoking (better yet, never smoke) – Smoking increases your cataract risk. It also raises the risk of other eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and dry eye.
  • Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.

Do Vitamins Prevent Cataracts?

The AREDS vitamins, such as Macular Protect, Ocuvite PreserVision and other formulas, do something very specific: slow down the progress of age-related macular degeneration. While the original AREDS research team studied whether giving the same vitamins would help prevent cataracts, they found – after studying more than 4,600 people – that the vitamins offered no cataract prevention.

You Can’t Prevent Cataracts, But You Can Treat Them

The bottom line is that while you can take steps to reduce your cataract risk, nothing is proven to prevent them from ever happening. Fortunately, cataracts are treatable. Cataract surgery is common and generally safe, especially with an experienced surgeon. Regular eye exams are the best way to check for cataracts and prevent vision loss from other conditions. Learn how often you need an eye exam, based on your age.

Learn More About Cataract Causes and Prevention

If you’re wondering if you have cataracts, notice changes in your vision or haven’t had an eye exam in a while, Oregon Eye Specialists is always welcoming new patients. With 10 locations, we probably have a clinic near you. Request an appointment or call 503-935-5580.

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About the Expert

Dr. Devin Gattey is an experienced cataract surgeon at OES. He joined the OES team in 2013 after practicing for 11 years with Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and serving as their director of comprehensive ophthalmology and lead cataract surgeon. He also founded and led their International Ophthalmology Program. At OES, Dr. Gattey practices comprehensive ophthalmology with a special interest in complex cataract surgery and advanced lens implants. Learn more about Dr. Devin Gattey »