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Health Research

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.

Medical Conditions

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

Environmental Factors

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.

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, inborn errors of metabolism, chromosomal abnormalities (such as Down's syndrome), prenatal infection, or other reasons.

Eye Injury

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

Eye Surgery

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


Cataract. American Optometric Association website. Available at: http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/cataract?sso=y. Accessed November 21, 2013.

Cataracts in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116240/Cataracts-in-adults. Updated August 31, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.

Facts about cataract. National Eye Institute (NEI) website. Available at: https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts. Updated September 2009. Accessed November 21, 2013.

What are cataracts? American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/cataracts/index.cfm. Accessed November 21, 2013.

What is a cataract? NIH Senior Health website. Available at: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/cataract/whatisacataract/01.html. Accessed November 21, 2013.

Last reviewed December 2015 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 12/20/2014