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What Causes Cataracts?

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The natural aging process is the main cause of cataracts and the leading cause of vision loss in adults 55 and over.

Our eyes work like a camera, so when we look at an object, light rays reflect off of that object and enter the eye through the cornea. The lens behind the cornea focuses the rays onto the retina, which, in turn, converts the rays into electrical impulses that travel through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain then perceives the electrical impulses as an image.

Seeing depends upon this chain of events, but seeing clear, focused images depends largely upon having a crystal clear lens. Unfortunately, cataracts interfere with that clarity.

Here’s what happens:

  • The lens is comprised mainly of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a way that is designed to keep the lens clear and allow light to pass.
  • As we age, portions of the protein can clump together and cloud a small area of the lens. Known as a cataract, over time it may grow larger and cloud an even greater area of the lens, making it more difficult to see clearly.

    Types of Cataracts:

  • Sub capsular cataracts occur at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a sub capsular cataract.
  • Nuclear cataracts form deep in the nucleus of the lens. Nuclear cataracts are most often associated with aging.
  • Cortical cataracts are characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that begin to form in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.


Other Common Causes:

  • Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
  • Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol
  • A previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • High myopia
  • Family history

Fortunately, there is a procedure that can reverse the effect of cataracts, and it’s available here at The Rand Eye Institute. It’s LenSx® custom laser cataract surgery. It’s been called “a bold leap forward” and it represents one of the greatest surgical advances of our time.


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Rand Eye Institute - Excellence in Ophthalmology. Having Earned a Reputation as one of the most advanced eye surgery centers in the world, Rand Eye Institute is dedicated to excellence in ophthalmology. Connect with Google+
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