The Rarer Causes of Cataracts

One news story this year described an unfortunate electrician who developed star-shaped cataracts as the result of electrocution from 14,000 volts. This is one of the rare causes of cataract.

Ageing causes the majority of cataracts. The less common causes include diabetes, trauma and side effects to medicines such as steroids. Other rare causes have been described such as radiation exposure. A recent study showed that the clean up workers following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 were more likely to develop cataracts. This was directly linked to their exposure to the leaked radiation levels on the site.

Cataracts can develop in metal or glass workers who may not have worn protective eye-glasses. This is thought to be due to the exposure of short-wave infrared radiation emitted from the molten glass or metal used in their work.

Astronauts who have been exposed to long periods of space radiation have developed early cataracts also contributing to the knowledge that radiation has a negative effect on the human lens.

Leprosy is a chronic infection caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium Leprae and is mistakenly thought to cause body parts to fall off. It can permanently damage skin and nerves and secondary infections can cause finger and toe deformation or shortening. Studies have shown that about 8% of patients develop cataracts as a result of the disease.

The electrocuted electrician thankfully survived and his striking star shaped cataracts were eventually removed safely with surgery.