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Causes of Cataracts

A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye (the clear part of the eye that helps to focus light). Cataracts can make your vision blurry, hazy, or less colorful.  

Most cataracts happen because of natural changes in your eyes as you get older. The good news is that surgery can get rid of cataracts.

How do cataracts form?

Cataracts form when the proteins in the lens of your eye clump together, making your lens cloudy.  

The lens of your eye is normally clear, letting light pass through it. The lens helps focus the light onto your retina (the light-sensitive layer of tissue in the back of your eye) so you can see things clearly. 

Cataracts keep you from seeing clearly because light can’t easily pass through the clumps of proteins in your lens. Over time, the clumps of proteins get bigger and thicker, making it harder for you to see. Your lens may also turn yellow or brown, which can change how you see colors. 

What causes cataracts?

After age 40, the proteins in the lens of your eye naturally start to break down. Most cataracts happen because of these natural changes. 

Doctors and researchers are still studying exactly why cataracts form. They have found some factors other than aging that make cataracts more likely, including:

Doctors and researchers have also found that some things make cataracts form faster, including:

  • Smoking 
  • Drinking too much alcohol 
  • Spending too much time in the sun, especially without sunglasses

Last updated: January 4, 2023