The older you get, the higher your risk for cataracts. In the U.S., more than half of people 80 and older have cataracts or have undergone surgery to remove them. This eye problem does not often show noticeable symptoms in its initial stages. Regularly visiting your local eye clinic goes a long way in the early detection of this condition.
People often ask if there are things they can do to prevent cataracts. Keep reading to find out.
What Are Cataracts and Can You Prevent Them?
The lens helps focus light for the retina, allowing you to see clearly. Cataracts refer to the clouding of this part of the eye. They can happen in one or both eyes. Age is a major risk factor for cataracts, but you are more likely to have them if you have diabetes, drink excessively or spend extended periods under the sun. Having had eye surgery or injury and taking steroids can also increase your likelihood of developing this eye problem.
Patients might experience blurred or hazy vision as this eye condition progresses. It can affect your color perception and night vision. Some patients find it difficult to read and drive. While cataracts are not preventable, there are measures you can take to slow down their progression.
Surgery is the only way to remove them, but your eye specialist might only recommend it if your condition is starting to disrupt your daily activities. During the procedure, your doctor will remove the affected lens and replace it with an artificial lens or intraocular lens. Following the surgery, the cataract will not form again in the same eye.
What Can You Do to Reduce Your Risk?
Wear UV-Blocking Sunglasses
Studies show that the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage the proteins in the lens of the eye. Regardless of your age, you will benefit from wearing UV-blocking sunglasses outdoors. Aside from making you look more stylish, your shades can aid in lowering your risk of cataracts.
Choose a pair of sunglasses that can block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Your eyewear should be able to screen out between 75% to 90% of visible light. The frame should be near your eyes and suit your face’s shape. Do you drive? Look for shades with a gray tint.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Good nutrition is crucial to healthy eyes. There is evidence that foods rich in vitamins C and E can help reduce the likelihood and slow the growth of cataracts. Tomatoes, citrus fruits, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries and Brussels sprouts are excellent sources of vitamin C. You can get vitamin E from green vegetables, nuts and some cereals.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are two more nutrients that can protect your eyes from various conditions. They are present in eggs and green, leafy vegetables. You can take multivitamins if you find it difficult to include these vitamins in your diet. Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
Aside from harming your heart and lungs, smoking is detrimental to your eyes. Free radicals are chemicals that can damage cells. Smoking can increase the production of these toxins, elevating your risk of developing cataracts.
Quitting this poor habit is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Speak to your doctor about programs and medications that assist with your journey. If you do not smoke, it is best that you do not start.
Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels
Your chances of getting cataracts are higher if you have diabetes. Elevated blood sugar levels can cause your lens to swell. This part of your eye also converts blood sugar into sorbitol. Over time, this substance will build up in the lens, affecting your vision and potentially causing cataracts to form. Managing your blood sugar can help protect your eyes against cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.
Limit Alcohol Intake
There is nothing wrong with occasionally having drinks with friends or indulging in a glass of wine during dinner. However, researchers found that people who excessively drink alcohol are more likely to have cataracts. Consuming less than two standard-sized alcoholic beverages can reduce your chances of developing this eye condition. On the other hand, taking over two drinks a day can heighten your risk of cataracts.
Cataracts are not the only consequence of excessive alcohol use. It can cause digestive issues, high blood pressure, heart disease and liver disease. Drinking too much alcohol can weaken your immune system and put you at higher risk of developing different forms of cancer. Limiting your consumption can safeguard you from serious health problems.
Regular movement is beneficial to your physical and mental health. It helps with weight management, decreasing the risk of various diseases. Moreover, it improves mobility and strengthens bones and muscles. Individuals who exercise routinely and eat well-balanced meals are less likely to get heart disease, type 2 diabetes, infectious disease and even cataracts.
Schedule Routine Eye Exams
It is a common misconception that you should only see your eye doctor once you notice changes in your vision. Regular comprehensive or contact eye exam appointments are crucial to keeping track of your eye health. Many eye problems, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts, do not show early symptoms. These conditions can lead to vision loss when not treated early or properly managed.
Eye doctors use advanced technology while assessing your eyes. Besides catching cataracts before they worsen, special tools allow them to detect signs of other health issues during your eye exam. Among them are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. Eye specialists might also be able to catch indications of brain tumors, aneurysms, and skin or blood cancer.