Most people have heard of cataracts, which affect more than 24.4 million Americans over the age of 40. This common eye condition isn’t painful, but it does cause progressive vision loss and eventually affects the quality of life of many people until they seek treatment. Even if you don’t have cataracts now, the risk of them developing increases with every decade of life. This means that it’s important to understand what they are, how they will affect your vision, and what you can do to slow their development.
Cataracts occur when the natural proteins found in the lens of the eye start to change as we get older. The proteins, which are usually evenly dispersed and easy to see through, start to clump together into cloudy patches. How many patches you will experience will depend on the severity of your cataracts.
You generally can’t tell if someone has cataracts just by looking at them unless the disease is very advanced, at which point the eye looks clouded and pale. Cataracts can form in just one eye or both, and their rate of development can vary between the eyes too.
Cataracts are fairly easily diagnosed, and your eye doctor should be able to pick them up at your routine comprehensive eye exams. Once you’ve been diagnosed, your eye doctor will talk to you about the possibilities for slowing their progression. They may also increase the frequency of your appointments so that they can closely monitor how you are affected.
Fortunately, there are a few different things that can be done to improve overall eye health, and these could also slow down the rate at which your cataracts are developing and preserve your vision for longer. They include:
UV light doesn’t only burn the skin, it’s also been proven to be harmful to the health of our eyes. Prolonged and excessive exposure to UV light has been shown to contribute towards the development of cataracts, and this is because UV causes changes to the cells found inside the eyes. Eye doctors recommend that everyone wears sunglasses whenever they are outside, even on cloudy days since UV light can also penetrate cloud cover. Make sure you choose a pair of shades that have been tested and are proven to block 99-100% of UV light. Wide-brimmed hats and staying in the shade will also minimize the amount of UV light that can get around the edges of your frames.
Unsurprisingly, what we eat plays a big role in the health of our eyes as well as our bodies. Choose a diet that contains lots of fruit and vegetables, particularly of the colored variety, as these contain nutrients that are essential for good eye health.
Many people are surprised to learn that smoking impacts eye health, but the truth is that it affects all areas of our health and wellbeing. Smoking prevents as much oxygenated blood from reaching the cells of the body, restricting the amount of nutrition that they receive. Quit smoking will see your overall health improve and could prevent the progression of your cataracts.
Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to increase our risk of developing many different eye diseases, including cataracts. If you drink alcohol regularly, try and reduce your intake and be sure to only drink in moderation.
Did you know that diabetes can increase your risk of eye problems, including cataracts? There are several general health conditions that have been linked to eye diseases, so one of the best ways of preventing your cataracts from getting worse is to get any other health issues that you have firmly under control.
Your eye doctor has the training and experience necessary to be able to closely monitor your cataracts and advise you of the best lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your eye health. They will also be able to talk to you about cataract surgery when the time is right for you to have this treatment. Cataract surgery is the only effective way of eliminating cataracts and involves removing and replacing the clouded lens with an artificial alternative.
For more information about cataracts, visit Canterbury Vision Care in West Boylston. Call 508-854-0595 to schedule an appointment today.