Causes of cataracts

Most cataracts are due to age-related changes in the lens. However, other factors can contribute to their development including:

    •    Diabetes mellitus—Persons with diabetes are at higher risk for cataracts.

    •    Drugs—Certain medications have been found to be associated with the development of a cataract. These include:

    ◦    Corticosteroids

    ◦    Chlorpromazine and other phenothiazine related medications

    •    Nutritional deficiency—Although the results are inconclusive, studies have suggested an association between cataract formation and low levels of antioxidants (e.g. vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids). Further studies may show that antioxidants have a significant effect on decreasing cataract development.

Rarely, cataracts can be present at birth or develop shortly after. They may be inherited or develop due to an infection, i.e. rubella, in the mother during pregnancy. A cataract may also develop following an injury to the eye or surgery for another eye problem, such as glaucoma.

While there are no clinically proven approaches to preventing cataracts, simple preventive strategies include reducing exposure to sunlight through UV blocking lenses, decreasing or discontinuing smoking and increasing antioxidant vitamin intake through consumption of leafy green vegetables and nutritional supplements.

Diagnosis of cataracts

Cataracts can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. This examination may include:

    •    Patient history to determine vision difficulties experienced by the patient that may limit their daily activities and other general health concerns affecting vision.

    •    Visual acuity measurement to determine to what extent a cataract may be limiting clear vision at distance and near.

    •    Refraction to determine the need for changes in an eyeglass or contact lens prescription.

    •    Evaluation of the lens under high magnification and illumination to determine the extent and location of any cataracts.

    •    Evaluation of the retina of the eye through a dilated pupil.

    •    Measurement of pressure within the eye.

    •    Supplemental testing for color vision and glare sensitivity.

Additional testing may be needed to determine the extent of impairment to vision caused by a cataract and to evaluate whether other eye diseases may limit vision following cataract surgery.

Using the information obtained from these tests, Dr. Wrightnour can determine if you have cataracts and advise you on your options and timeline for treatment.

Copywrited information courtesy of the American Optometric Association