Cataracts are the clouding of the natural lens found inside the eye. They are an age-related condition, and, unfortunately, all people will develop cataracts to some extent if they live long enough. Cataracts form slowly over years, and how quickly they progress is variable from person to person. For some people, cataracts progress to the point where cataract surgery is recommended to improve vision. Although cataracts are a common eye condition, there are lifestyle modifications you can do to reduce your risk of developing cataracts significant enough to require surgery.
The National Eye Institute recommends protecting your eyes from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) and high-energy visible (HEV) rays by always wearing good quality sunglasses while outdoors. Look for sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays and absorb most HEV rays with large lenses or a close-fitting wraparound style. Remember that the peak hours for sun exposure are between 10 am and 3 pm or 11 am and 4 pm during daylight savings time and that the sun’s rays are strong enough to pass through clouds, so you need your sunglasses every day.
If you haven’t quit already, here’s another good reason to do it: over time, the damage from smoking can cause cataracts to progress more quickly than normal. The good news is – by quitting smoking now, you can slow the progression of cataracts.
Studies have shown that certain vitamins and nutrients may reduce age-related decline in eye health, particularly antioxidants. This list isn’t exhaustive, but here are some examples to get you started: dark chocolate, blueberries, strawberries, pecans, carrots, sweet potatoes, artichokes, kale, red cabbage, beans, beets, spinach, apples, and plums.
Doctors also recommend eating more fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. This has been linked to a potentially reduced risk of cataracts or their progression. You may also consider taking a multivitamin that contains Vitamin C and E.
Cataracts can cause a variety of visual symptoms depending on the type and severity of the lens clouding. Common symptoms include:
Difficulty with night driving
Difficulty seeing in bright sunlight
Increased glare or halos from lights, especially car headlights
Needing more light to read
If your cataracts become significant enough they affect your vision, your doctor may recommend cataract surgery. Cataract surgery involves removing the clouded natural lens from your eye. The natural lens is replaced with a plastic lens implant during surgery. The implant lasts your lifetime and never has to be replaced. Once a cataract is removed, the surgery never has to be repeated, and your vision will return to its maximum visual potential as long as you don’t have any other eye diseases limiting your vision.
Take control of your cataract diagnosis by getting regular eye exams, communicating with your doctor, and putting these tips into practice. If you have concerns about whether you have cataracts, or whether you need cataract surgery, contact our office today!