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Ask Dr. Schauer ~ Are Cataracts Hereditary?


“Are cataracts hereditary? Both my father and mother had cataract surgery. My eye sight is perfect and I get checked annually. Is there certain foods I should avoid to prevent cataract?”

A listener from Bismarck asks a good question since June is National Cataract Awareness Month. I personally like to say: If you live long enough, you’ll get cataracts!

Over the course of your life, your eyes are exposed to UV light and free radicals. This causes aging changes in the crystalline lens, which will eventually form a cataract. There really isn’t anything “hereditary” about it.

Types of Cataracts

The most common type of cataract is an age-related cataract. However, there are other types of cataracts including congenital (present at birth), traumatic (usually from blunt-force trauma), or due to side effects from medications (such as asthma steroid inhalers).

Treatment of Cataracts

Because there are different types of cataracts, there are different age ranges on when a person may need to have the cataracts removed. Some folks are ready in the their 40’s, and others aren’t ready until their late 80’s.

At this point, cataracts cannot be prevented. But there are some things you can do that may slow their development and progression.

Our listener is already on the right track by having annual eye exams. This will detect any early cataracts. I would also advise our listener to wear sunglasses whenever exposed to UV light outdoors. Green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale) are excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin and may help slow down cataract formation. In addition, Vitamin C and Vitamin E can also be helpful to slow their development.

But as we talked about a couple weeks ago, remember that cataract surgery can be a good thing for some people! When the cataract is removed and the implant is inserted, it can decrease the need for eyeglasses for distance vision.


Top image by Flickr user Gordon Wrigley  (location) used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharelike 4.0 License. Image has been cropped and modified from original. Image rights state commercial use and modifications allowed when image was obtained on 06/13/2017.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.