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Risk Factors for Cataracts

by Rick Alan

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 health care 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.

Medical Conditions

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

  • Diabetes
  • Any medical condition that requires you to take steroid medications for a long period of time
  • Certain infections

Environmental Factors

Both regular exposure to radiation and excessive exposure to sunlight can increase your risk of developing cataracts.

Smoking and Alcohol

Both smoking and excessive alcohol use can increase your risk of developing cataracts.

Genetic Factors

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 or prenatal infection, or other reasons.

Eye Injury

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


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

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

National Eye Institute

Last reviewed October 2004 by Kimberly Rask, MD, PhD

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