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Risk Factors for Cataracts

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop cataracts with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing cataracts. Ask your healthcare provider what you can do to reduce your risk of developing cataracts.

Risk factors may include, but are not limited to:

The most common risk factor for cataracts is age. Approximately half of all Americans between the ages of 65 and 75 have cataracts.

The following medical conditions may increase your risk of developing cataracts:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Any medical condition that requires you to take steroid medications for a long period of time
  • Certain drugs
  • Certain infections
  • Chronic eye disease (such as chronic uveitis or retinitis pigmentosa)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or other auto-immune diseases

Exposure to radiation, some toxins, and excessive exposure to sunlight can increase your risk of developing cataracts.

Smoking can increase your risk of developing cataracts.

People with relatives who have certain types of cataracts are more likely to develop cataracts than people who do not have relatives with cataracts.

Cataracts are not common in children. However, some children are born with or develop cataracts due to birth defect, inborn errors of metabolism, chromosomal abnormalities (such as Down's syndrome), prenatal infection, or other reasons.

Eye injuries—such as those suffered from a cut, puncture, or hard blow—increase your risk of developing a cataract.

Certain eye surgeries, such as surgery for a retinal detachment , can increase your risk of developing a cataract.

Revision Information

  • Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research website. Available at: http://www.mayo.edu.

  • The Merck Manual of Medical Information. 17th ed. Simon and Schuster, Inc; 2000.

  • National Eye Institute website. Available at: http://www.nei.nih.gov.