Eye Health

Updated 26 September 2018

Causes of cataracts

Cataracts are associated with age, long-term UV exposure, eye injuries, diabetes and a number of other factors.

A number of factors can contribute to the development of cataracts.

These include:

  • Ageing. Cataract is associated with ageing and is common in older adults. About 75% of all cataracts are age-related.
  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (e.g. from sunlight).
  • Eye injuries. Both sharp and blunt injuries may cause cataracts.
  • Diabetes, especially when blood glucose is poorly controlled.
  • Cataract may develop as a result of other eye ailments, including glaucoma and uveitis (inflammation in the eye).
  • Long-term use of certain medications, most notably steroids.
  • Radiation treatment to the head.
  • Hereditary factors. Some babies are born with cataracts (congenital cataracts) or develop them shortly after birth.

Reviewed by ophthalmologist Dr Viresh Dullabh, MBBCh (Wits) FC Ophth SA (CMSA) MMED (UKZN). September 2018.

Read more:

Symptoms of cataracts

Diagnosing cataracts

Treating cataracts


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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