Cataracts are caused by progressive opacification of the lens inside the eye, which results in the eye lens becoming sclerosed (greyish) or milky. Any opacification disturbs the refraction of light, which is essential for vision and hinders the light from falling over the retina. Hence, blindness ensues.
Because lens opacification is a natural aging process, there is no way to completely prevent cataracts. However, you can greatly reduce your risk of the condition at an earlier age and/or slow the progression with the help of lifestyle modification.
If you notice that your vision is deteriorating or that you are having difficulty seeing in dim light, consult your doctor about cataract testing. If you are diagnosed with cataracts, it is important to regularly monitor the progression and seek treatment at the right stage of the condition’s development.
What are the four ways to prevent worsening of cataracts?
Many people older than 50 years of age will have age-related alterations in their lenses, which are referred to as "early cataracts." Although it may be difficult to prevent cataracts from developing, the following ways can considerably reduce the risk of acquiring and worsening the condition.
1. Protect the eyes from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light for a long period
Although some sun exposure is indeed beneficial, continuous exposure to the sun's UV radiation might hasten cataract progression. When you have to be outside on a sunny day, try to wear sunglasses. Reducing the amount of UV radiation that reaches your eyes will help keep cataracts at bay and slow their progression for the same reasons as discussed above.
Thin clouds allow the sun's rays to flow through, so don't be deceived by a cloudy day. Sun exposure peaks between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. or 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. during daylight savings time.
2. Avoid drops of steroids in the eye
Dry eyes and arthritic flare-ups in the eyes are usually treated with steroid eye drops that reduce inflammation by mimicking the actions of cortisol in the body. Although steroid eye drops can be beneficial when taken properly, they can have negative side effects such as hastening the formation of cataracts. Regular eye exams by an optometrist or ophthalmologist are recommended for people who use steroid eye drops regularly.
3. Inspect the side effects of the medicine
Over 300 widely given drugs have negative effects that could hasten the formation of cataracts. Consult with your doctor if there are any adverse effects you should be aware of if you are at risk of cataracts and take medicine daily. If you're taking medication that could hasten the progression of cataracts, it's more vital than ever to stay out of direct sunlight during peak hours, wear sunglasses or a hat on bright days and get frequent eye exams.
4. Diet and lifestyle modifications
Many studies have shown that leading a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of cataracts and prevents cataracts from worsening.
- Studies suggest that antioxidant vitamins found in fruits and vegetables may lessen the development of cataracts.
- Carrots are high in beta-carotene that is converted to vitamin A in the body and is beneficial to eye health.
- Eating fish reduces the risk of cataracts since fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which slows the progression of the condition.
- A high-carbohydrate diet may hasten cataract progression.
- Foods high in various vitamins and minerals may help prevent cataracts.
What are the risk factors for cataracts?
Cataracts can be caused by several different circumstances. Although age is the most common factor, other factors such as gender or race, health issues such as diabetes, and overall lifestyle choices can all influence the risk of cataracts.
- As you get older, your risk of cataracts increases and you're more likely to acquire a range of health problems that can predispose your eyes to cataract formation.
- Cataracts affect about 24 million Americans older than 40 years of age or 17 percent of the population.
- Women are more likely than men to acquire cataracts, according to research.
- In the United States, 61 percent of people who have cataracts are women. According to experts, menopause is the cause. The drop in estrogen following menopause, according to researchers, may predispose women to cataracts later in life.
- Experts contend that hormone replacement treatment is a potential cataract-prevention approach; however, this requires more research.
- For people younger than 70 years of age, the occurrence of cataracts is the same across ethnicities; however, as people get older, the risk increases dramatically.
- Caucasians are 10 percent more likely than African Americans to acquire cataracts at 70 years of age. In this age group, the Hispanic population has the lowest rate of cataracts.
- At 80 years of age, 70 percent of Caucasians have cataracts compared with little over 50 percent of African Americans.
- Health problems
- Secondary eye disorders such as cataracts might develop because of certain health issues.
- Diabetes is the most common cause, and cataracts are usually one of the first complications. Researchers believe that people with diabetes are more likely to get cataracts because of an excess of sorbitol in their tissues.
- Other risk factors include high blood pressure and obesity. These elements emphasize the importance of maintaining good health.
- People with high myopia (shortsightedness) are more prone to cataract development.
- Excessive sun exposure and smoking or exposure to smoke
- These are the two most common circumstances. Although you cannot avoid your risk of being exposed to these hazardous toxins in the environment, the more you are exposed, the greater your risk.
- Even in younger people, ultraviolet (UV) light, blue light from prolonged screen exposure, and smoking produce cataracts. However, the cumulative effects of UV light overexposure can take years, if not decades, to accelerate cataract development.
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