Cataracts are one of the leading causes of vision loss in the world. In the United States, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts by age 75, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Early detection and removal of cataracts is crucial to prevent severe loss of vision.
Individuals who fall into one or more “high-risk” categories should have a dilated eye examination from an ophthalmologist or optometrist every year. If you are concerned at all about your risk of developing cataracts, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you. This free cataract risk calculator can also be used to help you assess your immediate risk of developing a cataract in one or both eyes.
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DISCLAIMER: This calculator is not intended to diagnose cataracts; it is a resource to help individuals assess their risk factors.
You have a natural crystalline lens in each eye—one lens on the surface of your eye, and a second lens within your eye, called the crystalline lens. Although the crystalline lens starts out clear, as we begin to age it yellows and hardens, and begins to interfere with the quality of our vision.
Everyone at some point will develop cataracts with age. Cataracts also worsen over time, so it’s important to understand the early signs of cataracts so you can seek treatment and avoid loss of vision. If you recognize the following warning signs, schedule a cataract exam with your eye doctor:
Surgery may be necessary when the lens inside your eye has become hardened and cloudy. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens to clear your vision. Intraocular lens (IOL) implants may also reduce your dependence on corrective eyewear such as glasses or contacts.
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According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), the risk of cataract increases with each decade of life starting around age 40. By age 75, half of Caucasian Americans have cataract. By age 80, that increases to 70 percent, compared with 53 percent of African-Americans and 61 percent of Hispanic-Americans.
According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are 60 percent more likely to develop cataracts. Diabetics also tend to get cataracts at a younger age, and the cataracts tend to progress faster. A review article that appeared in the Journal of Ophthalmic & Vision Research (the official publication of the Ophthalmic Research Center) reported that cataracts is 2-5 times more likely in patients with diabetes.
Research has found that smokers have a significantly higher risk of developing cataracts compared with non-smokers. A review article that appeared in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery reported evidence suggesting that smoking has a 3-fold increase on the risk for cataract development.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, ocular trauma is one of the most under-recognized causes of vision loss in the world and can lead to the development of cataracts and glaucoma. In some cases, cataract may occur acutely after trauma, but more often a slowly progressive cataract develops.
Genetics (family history) is a consistent risk factor identified in most epidemiological studies of age-related macular degeneration. The risk increases with each immediate family member that has cataracts. For example, someone with two or more grandparents with cataracts are 2-3 times more likely to develop cataracts compared with someone whose grandparents did not have cataracts.
According to the World Health Organization, sun exposure, in particular exposure to UVB, appears to be a major risk factor for cataract development. The National Eye Institute explains how UV light can trigger harmful oxidative reactions that can damage lens proteins and produce a cataract.
The Royal College of General Practitioners conducted a meta-analysis of 25 studies across the world and found the risk of cataract was higher in populations with hypertension (high blood pressure).
Several population-based studies have demonstrated associations between obesity and cataract. For example, the Physicians’ Health Study found that at any given level of BMI, a 2-unit higher level predicted a 12 percent increase risk of cataract.