Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of all or part of the eye’s normally clear lens. It is visible to both the individual with the cataract, as it affects their vision, and to anyone who looks at that person’s eye and sees the clouded lens. Cataracts eventually block and distort light entering the eye.

More than 20 million Americans over age 40 are affected with this condition. Cataracts are usually found in people over age 55, but younger people can occasionally have them as well.

Symptoms include cloudy or blurry distance vision; altered color perception; problems with glare; difficulty reading fine print; poor night vision and frequent changes in corrective lens prescriptions

Risk Factors

The risk of developing a cataract increases with age. However, you might also be at risk if you have genetic links, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other eye or autoimmune diseases. Cataracts can also develop for long-term exposure to the sun, steroid use, eye injuries, and smoking. Changes to lifestyle habits can help reduce your risk for cataracts.

Treatment

Most cataracts are able to be removed through a surgical procedure, and the vision problem at least partially corrected.


Though there is significant controversy about whether cataracts can be prevented, a number of studies suggest certain nutrients and nutritional supplements may reduce your risk of cataracts. Research suggests that higher dietary intakes of vitamin E and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin from food and supplements are associated with significantly decreased risks of cataract.


Good sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, and spinach. Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, kale, and other green, leafy vegetables. Other studies have shown antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, may reduce cataract risk.


Another step you can take to reduce your risk of cataracts is to wear protective sunglasses that block 100% of the sun’s UV rays when you are outdoors.

For those with inoperable cataracts, many people look to low vision devices to improve their quality of life and enhance their vision.