By Tina D. Turner, M.D.,  Updated by Sefy Paulose, M.D., March, 2022

Causes of Cataracts

There are various forms of cataract, however, the most common cause of cataracts is age. Since the ancient Greeks and Romans, scientists have known that the lens matures with time. As we age, due to various reasons including oxidative damage, the lens changes color, density and clarity. In addition to the aging process, cataracts can also be caused by any of the following:
  • Medication: Long term use of corticosteroids such as prednisone has been correlated with cataract development;
  • Physical injury or trauma: A blow to the eye, a cut or puncture, chemical burns, or electric shock can accelerate the cloudiness of the lens;
  • Radiation: Long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun (both UVA and UVB) can accelerate cataract formation. Radiation used to treat certain types of head and neck cancers can cause cataracts to develop as well;
  • Poor nutrition: Diets that are deficient in antioxidants, such as beta-carotene (vitamin A), selenium, and vitamins C and E have shown to increase the progression of cataracts;
  • Smoking and second-hand smoke: Individuals who smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day have twice the risk of nonsmokers for developing cataracts;
  • Systemic diseases, such as diabetes and diabetic retinopathy;
  • Eye diseases, such as uveitis, which is an inflammatory process that affects the interior of the eye;
  • Cataracts can also be inherited or congenital (from birth).