I have many patients ask me if exposure to the sun over their lifetime has caused the cataracts in their eyes. The answer isn’t as simple as saying yes or no. Cataracts can be caused by many factors such as natural aging, sunlight, medical issues like diabetes, other eye diseases, injury, and even being born with them. Unless you have had an obvious eye injury, born with them or can pin point the cataracts coming about from a medical issue, then it is most commonly age-related cataracts that can be found. Age-related cataracts are something that cannot be prevented, it is no different than the natural aging of the skin and hair for example, and of course exposure to sunlight over your lifetime will have its part to play in aging your body.
Sunlight is a source of vitamin D and it is important to have a little sunlight every day to maintain levels of vitamin D, but it is also very important to protect your eyes and skin from the harmful UV rays the sun emits. If your eyes are regularly over-exposed to the sun’s UV rays this can certainly damage them, possibly causing vision problems, blindness, and cataracts. The longer your eyes are exposed to the UV rays the higher the risk of cataracts forming. This doesn’t necessary mean that after one day over exposing your eyes will cause cataracts, as exposure to UV rays tends to be cumulative, this means the effects of the sun’s UV rays won’t show straight away but could show up many years later, depending on how much long-term over exposure there has been.
So, to sum up, yes, the sun can attribute to cataract formation if the eyes have been exposed to too much UV overtime, but most of the time cataracts are just a result of your eyes aging naturally. Remember to always protect your eyes with 100% UVA and UVB protection sunglasses, this can be one way to help slow down the formation of cataracts, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, and always having regular eye checks.
Author: Samer Hamada is a distinguished consultant ophthalmologist and cornea surgeon performing eye surgeries at his practice, Eye Clinic London. With nearly two decades’ experience, Mr. Hamada is recognised as a leading expert in the field of cataract, refractive lens exchange (RLE) and corneal surgeries.
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