June is Cataract Awareness Month, an effort on the part of Prevent Blindness America to draw attention to the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. 20 million Americans over the age of 40 are currently living with cataracts. Nearly half of all people will develop cataracts by the age of 75.
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. Once a cataract has developed, the lens must be removed and replaced through cataract surgery to prevent a complete loss of vision. Several advancements in cataract surgery, such as bladeless options, have made this common procedure incredibly safe and effective, but working to prevent cataracts remains a more attractive option. So how, exactly, can a person work to prevent the development of cataracts?
Can Cataracts be Prevented?
There is no evidence that cataracts can be prevented completely. However, there is significant evidence suggesting that lifestyle plays a key role in the speed and age at which they develop. You can reduce risks for cataracts by:
- Not smoking. If you smoke, stop now. Smokers are 3x as likely to develop cataracts as nonsmokers. This risk increases in people who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day. Sadly, there is no way to undo the damage already done if you are a smoker. Quitting now will, however, prevent you from increasing those risks further.
- Reducing alcohol intake. Heavy drinkers are much more likely to develop cataracts as those who only imbibe occasionally. The National Institutes of Health defines “heavy drinking” as more than two drinks per day for men and more than one drink per day for women.
- Wearing sunglasses. UV rays cause significant damage to the eyes and are a leading risk factor for cataracts. Wearing good sunglasses will help prevent this damage. Wearing cheap sunglasses will actually increase your risks.
- Keeping diabetes under control. Diabetes increases risks for myriad vision disorders, cataracts among them. Controlling your blood-sugar levels will help prevent vision loss in diabetic patients.
- Avoiding the use of corticosterone medications. Oral steroids are conclusively linked to cataract development. If you have been prescribed steroids, avoid long-term use to help prevent this risk.
- Eating healthy. A diet rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, certain minerals and healthy fats can help prevent vision disorders including cataracts. Select whole and natural foods as opposed to supplements when possible. Food is much more effective than pills at delivering nutrients your body can recognize.
It is important to remember that even taking these precautions may not be enough to fully prevent cataracts. This is why it is important that you maintain routine eye exams as you age. After the age of 60, it is recommended that you visit an ophthalmologist yearly to allow for prompt detection of age-related vision disorders. Seeta Eye Centers has two locations to make that easier. Please call 845-454-1025 today to schedule an appointment and learn more.
With offices in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill, our board-certified ophthalmologists serve the entire Hudson Valley. If you are experiencing vision changes or if you are simply overdue for an exam, we look forward to meeting with you to discuss your needs and helping you achieve optimal vision.