Protect your eyes and reduce your risk for this common eye condition.
Cataracts are probably the most well-known eye condition associated with age. By the age of 80, more than half of all people living in the US either have a cataract or have undergone cataract surgery.
What are cataracts?
Inside your eye, there is a natural lens that is normally clear. Over the years, changes in the eyes lead to the breakdown of the lens' proteins, causing them to become cloudy. When viewing things through a cataract, items may appear hazy, blurry or less colorful.
In general, cataracts develop in both eyes, though not always evenly. Because the cataract in one eye might be more developed than in the other, there could be a marked difference in vision.
In addition to the vision changes noted above, other symptoms of cataracts include:
- Greater sensitivity to glare and light
- Yellowing of colors
- Dim vision
- Double vision that's in just one eye
- Needing more or brighter light for reading and similar activities
- Difficulty with driving, especially at night
- Seeing rings or halos around lights
Who is at risk for developing cataracts?
While cataracts are a common condition associated with aging, there are other risk factors that could increase your chances of developing them or having them appear earlier in your life.
Risk factors include:
- Excessive sunlight exposure
- Past eye surgery
- Excessive alcohol use
- High blood pressure
- Extended use of corticosteroid medications
- Previous eye inflammation and/or injury
There is also a strong genetic factor regarding the development of cataracts. If your parents, siblings, or other family members have cataracts, your chances of also getting them increases.
How do I reduce or prevent cataracts?
While cataracts are a part of the natural aging process for many people, there are still a number of strategies you can implement that could help slow their progression or prevent them from developing earlier in your life.
Stick to regular eye exams
This is the main way to keep your eye health in check. Only during a comprehensive eye exam can your optometrist detect early signs that could point to the development of cataracts. During your appointment, your eye doctor may go over some lifestyle changes that could improve the health of your eyes if there are changes to the eye's lens.
Protect your eyes from the sun
The sun's powerful ultraviolet rays can contribute to the development of cataracts. When you're out in the sun, make sure to wear sunglasses that block UVB rays as well as a hat.
Make positive lifestyle changes
Eating a healthy diet that consists of lots of vegetables and fruits can help you maintain a healthy weight while also providing your eyes with the vitamins and minerals they need. If you drink alcohol frequently or in excessive amounts, cut back or stop altogether. Smoking can also have a detrimental effect on your eyes' health. Quitting can help prevent eye diseases.
How are cataracts diagnosed and treated?
Your eye doctor is the only one who can provide a definitive diagnosis of cataracts. There are several tests that can assist in this diagnosis, including a slit-lamp exam, visual acuity test, and retinal exam.
During the early stages of the disease, the changes in vision associated with cataracts can often be addressed by using prescription glasses. When this strategy to clear your vision is no longer working, surgery is often the next step.