Early Onset Cataracts: What Causes Them?

When you think about cataracts, chances are the first thing that comes to mind is an elderly person. While cataracts most commonly affect people over the age of 60, it is not so uncommon for people to develop cataracts in their 40s, 30s and even 20s. Cataracts can even occur at birth! These cases are typically referred to as “early onset cataracts.” So, how exactly do cataracts occur in people so young?

What Are Early Onset Cataracts?

Cataracts occur when the lens inside of the eye becomes foggy, kind of like a fogged up window. Because cataracts stop light from entering the eye, vision can become dim and blurry. When left untreated, cataracts can cause significant vision loss and even blindness. Night vision is typically the first to go, and this is usually when people realize something is wrong.

Cataracts are considered “early onset” when they occur in anyone under the age of 60. There are a lot of ways this can happen, but the exact cause of early cataract development is currently unknown.

What Causes Early Onset Cataracts?

As mentioned above, the exact cause of early onset cataracts is not known, although research is always being done. From what we know about cataracts and associated risk factors, it can be assumed that the following risk factors have something to do with early cataract development:

  • Smoking
  • Family history and genetics
  • Excessive exposure to UV rays
  • Eye injury
  • Other medical conditions like diabetes

This is not an exhaustive list, as there is a lot we don’t know about the nature of early onset cataracts and how they occur. We do know, however, that cataracts are easily treatable through surgery no matter your age!

What Happens During Cataract Surgery?

Before you can undergo cataract surgery, you’ll first have to visit us for your cataract surgery consultation. During your consultation, your doctor will make sure your eyes are healthy enough to undergo surgery. You will also discuss which intraocular lens is the best to suit your needs and lifestyle.

The intraocular lens (IOL) you choose is important, because this is what will replace your natural lens. There are many types of IOLs available, some of which correct common refractive errors like myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and even presbyopia. Your doctor will help you find a lens that fits your lifestyle and budget.

During your cataract surgery, your expert surgeon will make an incision in the periphery of your cornea. Through this incision, they will use a special tool break up the cataract and remove it in pieces. Once the cataract is fully removed, your surgeon will position the IOL in its place. That’s it!

The healing process is much quicker and easier than most people expect. Your vision may fluctuate as it accommodates to the IOL. You will be given a list of instructions to follow and things to avoid. You will also attend a series of follow up appointments so your doctor can ensure the healing process is going according to plan.

Do you suspect you have early onset cataracts? You aren’t alone. Contact the Santa Monica Eye Medical Group to schedule your cataract appointment to receive a diagnosis and plan of action. Our cataract surgeons are highly skilled and experienced, and have handled many cases of early-onset cataract development. Call us or contact us online to schedule an appointment!

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