Cataracts are protein formations that buildup on the lens of the eye. Cataracts develop gradually, so vision is unlikely to be affected immediately. However, eventually the cataract will worsen and cloud over the eye’s lens, which can cause blurry and unfocused vision.
Early diagnosis and treatment is key to managing cataracts and preventing permanent vision loss. Because of this, it is important that people know about cataract risk factors and causes so they are aware if they are susceptible to this eye disease. Here, Dr. Raul Peña, whose eye clinic serves the Harlingen, TX, area, discusses the characteristics that increase the risk of developing cataracts.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts are most commonly caused by changes in the eye that are linked to aging or eye injury. These changes can cause the tissues of the eye’s lens to break down so that proteins and fibers clump together. These clumps, or formations, make portions of the lens appear cloudy or fogged over. As cataracts grow, they have a greater impact on vision. Cataracts can make it difficult to focus on fine details and colors, and can lead to glares, halos, and increased sensitivity to light.
Cataract Risk Factors
While aging and eye injuries are the two most common causes of cataracts, there are many other conditions that increase the risk of this eye disease. Risk factors do not guarantee that a person will develop cataracts, but it does mean that they are more susceptible. Some of the risk factors that are known to put a person at greater risk of cataracts include:
- A family history of cataracts
- A past eye injury or eye surgery
- Past radiation treatment on the upper portion of the body
- Spending extended amounts of time in the sun (especially if UV-blocking sunglasses are not worn)
- Prolonged use of steroid medication
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Certain medical or health-related conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity
Can Cataracts Be Prevented?
When our Harlingen patients have risk factors that are known to increase the likelihood of cataracts, they often want to know if there is anything they can do to prevent cataracts from developing. Currently, there is nothing that has been proven to prevent cataracts or slow down their development. However, there are steps that individuals can take to promote good eye health and ensure that, if cataracts develop, they are diagnosed early on.
The following practices can be beneficial to anyone, but the are especially important for individuals who are susceptible to cataracts:
- Schedule routine eye exams (annual eye exams are often recommended for those who are at high risk of developing cataracts)
- Refrain from smoking
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Wear sunglasses when outdoors
- Manage health conditions that have been linked to an increased risk of cataracts
Get In Touch
If you have noticed any changes in vision or are simply concerned about your risk of cataracts, a comprehensive eye exam is the best way to monitor your eye health. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Raul Peña, send us a message online, or call our Harlingen eye institute at (956) 264-1200.