Cataract Prevention – Things to know
Cataracts are a fact of life. Quoted as one of the expected effects of ageing. The term “cataract” refers to a clouding of the lens inside the eye and results in a variety of symptoms. Including hazy or blurry vision, a decrease in contrast sensitivity, and even an alteration of colour perception. Cataracts are often cited as the leading cause of blindness. This statistic is due to a lack of access to ophthalmology services and appropriate eye care in many developing countries and rural communities. The vision loss from cataracts is reversible with surgery.
The prevalence of cataracts increase in older age groups. Since the strongest association with the development of cataract is older age. In this regard, developing some degree of cataract is inevitable. This does not mean cataracts will progress to a point where vision is severely harmed or indicates surgery. The three common types of age-related cataracts are nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular cataracts. But cataracts may also arise from other causes. Such as systemic diseases, including diabetes. As well as, eye trauma or infection and inflammation or even congenital conditions.
Nothing short of surgical cataract extraction can reverse the effects of an existing cataract. However, several steps can be taken to delay its development or slow its progression.
The link between cataracts and tobacco smoking is well established in the scientific literature. Research has found that smoking is directly correlated with an increased risk of requiring cataract surgery. One study notes that individuals smoking more than 15 cigarettes a day are subject to a 42% increased risk of cataract surgery when compared to non-smokers. The good news is that ceasing smoking helps to reduce the risk of surgery. Though the risk remains higher when compared to those who have never smoked. Patients who had previously smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day still had a 21% higher risk after 20 years of having quit smoking.
UV exposure is another risk factor for the development of cataract. Leading many to believe that protection for the eyes in the form of sunglasses and hats can aid with cataract prevention.
Studies investigating this further have estimated approximately 10% of a certain type of age-related cataracts. Cortical cataracts, are as a consequence of UV-B damage.
This results in a small proportion of cataract cases that would be preventable with UV protection. Wearing sunglasses and a hat carry no disadvantage or risk, and so are still worthwhile.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Studies have found that heavy alcohol consumption increase risk of age-related cataract. This means more than two standard drinks a day. Moderate alcohol intake did not yield any significant correlation with cataract development. Leading scientists to believe that reducing alcohol consumption can help prevent cataracts. One study conducted in Sweden found that females who engaged in daily alcohol intake were at an 11% higher risk of requiring cataract surgery. In comparison to those with lower alcohol intake. Needing to undergo surgery on average 2 years earlier than their non-drinking counterparts.
Research suggests that diets high in antioxidants, particularly vitamins A, C, and E, contribute some protection against age-related cataracts. The proposed basis is of this is that antioxidants protect against oxidative damage to the lens of the eye. This would otherwise result in opacification and cataract. In theory a high intake of antioxidants in the diet should reduce the risk of cataract. But not all studies have found strong evidence for nutrition as a reliable form of cataract prevention. A healthy diet is generally beneficial for the body. Antioxidants have proven protective effects for other parts of the eye such as the macula. So good nutrition is still advisable. Sources of antioxidant vitamins include green leafy vegetables. Such as spinach, red or orange coloured fruits and veggies, such as tomatoes and capsicum, and nuts.
Diabetes is an associated risk factor for many concurrent diseases throughout the body. Including the formation of cataract. Excess glucose in the bloodstream triggers a metabolic pathway that results in absorption of water by the lens fibres. This causes swelling of the lens and the development of a diabetic cataract. Poorly controlled diabetes also impairs the ability of the lens to resist oxidative damage. Further contributing to the increased risk of cataracts.
Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure performed in the Western world. Due to its high prevalence in our ageing population. The development of age-related cataracts is nothing to be anxious about. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help delay the development or progression of cataract. Helping to prolong quality of life and reduce the need for surgery.
As cataracts often begin with no noticeable symptoms, regular eye tests are recommended. Whether with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. To be able to track any early changes. Call us for free at 03 8372 0187