Age-related nuclear cataract is a major cause of blindness. It is characterised by opacification and colouration in the centre of the lens and is accompanied by extensive protein oxidation. The reason for the onset of nuclear cataract is not known, but it is proposed here that the underlying cause is the development, with age, of a barrier to the transport of metabolites within the lens. Such a barrier may result in an increase in the half-lives of reactive molecules, such as UV filters, thus promoting posttranslational modification of proteins in the nucleus and may also act to prevent an adequate flux of antioxidants from reaching the lens interior and, as a consequence, allow oxidation of nuclear components. Further, this oxidation may take place even if the lens outer cortex and epithelium remain perfectly functional.