The effect of cataracts is one of the most common vision problems we face as we age. Cataract surgery is performed thousands of times each year in Australia alone, and may be expected to increase in number as our population ages. Whether you’re in your 20s, 40s, or 60s, if you’re not too keen on needing cataract surgery in the future, you may be wondering how to prevent cataracts, and whether it’s even possible.
How to Prevent Cataracts (or at least reduce your risk of needing a cataract surgeon)?
It may not be possible to entirely avoid cataract surgery with certainty. However, there some relatively simple lifestyle modifications you can consider to delay the onset and progression of cataracts, the vision problems that come with them, and your likelihood of needing cataract surgery. Here are 5 steps on how to prevent cataracts.
Minimise UV exposure to your eyes
The role of ultraviolet radiation in the formation of cataracts is not fully understood. However, experts do know that people who are exposed to greater amounts of UV light tend to require cataract surgery earlier than those who aren’t. For example, populations of people who spend a lot of time outdoors whether for work or play, and those who live in equatorial countries that receive more UV, tend to develop cataracts with a higher prevalence. Therefore, in trying to understand how to prevent cataracts, protecting the eyes from UV exposure often comes first. This can be as simple as wearing a hat and sunglasses when outdoors, especially when the UV index is predicted to be high. UV protection is beneficial not only for reducing the development and progression of cataracts but can also help you avoid other eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and certain eye cancers.
Your cataract surgeon knows that smoking is positively and directly related with the development of cataracts. This means that the more you smoke, the higher the likelihood that you will develop cataracts. It is also well known that the effects of cigarette smoking extend beyond contributing to vision problems such as cataract and macular degeneration. Quitting smoking will benefit not only your eyesight but your lungs and skin as well.
Avoid eye injuries
Because accidents happen, every time you’re engaging in a high-risk activity, it’s important to wear appropriate eye protection. Although most cataract surgery cases involve age-related cataracts, a smaller percentage of cataracts are caused by trauma, and may need the attention of a specialised cataract surgeon. Trauma-related cataracts can be due to physical trauma, which includes blunt or penetrating injuries. An example of blunt trauma may be the impact of a squash ball to the eye, while a penetrating eye injury can be from a shard of glass from a broken window, or more commonly, a car accident. Although it’s not always possible or practical to wear eye protection (like when driving a car), if you are involved in any sort of construction work, metalwork, woodwork, or something similar, it’s important to always wear safety glasses with an appropriate safety rating. Eye trauma and resultant cataracts can also arise from chemical causes, so if you work with chemicals, whether in a lab or your own garden, eye protection there is also a good idea.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Studies have shown that heavy alcohol intake can increase your risk of needing early cataract surgery. Heavy alcohol consumption is defined as more than two standard drinks a day. The association appears to be related to increasing your risk of developing age-related cataracts, possibly through oxidative damage to the lens of your eye, which is where cataracts form. Moderate alcohol consumption was either found to have no significant influence on cataract formation or offered a potential protective effect.
Eat foods high in antioxidants
As oxidative damage to the lens can induce cataract formation, packing your diet with antioxidants may have a protective effect. Specifically, vitamins A, C, and E are potent antioxidants with the potential to delay the onset or progression of age-related cataracts. However, not all studies have found that a certain diet can offer protective effects against cataracts. Since a well-balanced diet is generally beneficial for all aspects of the body, if you wish to increase your intake of antioxidants, among various other fruits and vegetables, consider produce such as capsicum, tomatoes, pecans, walnuts, and kale.
Despite taking all possible measures against developing a cataract, you may eventually still find yourself facing the prospect of a cataract operation. Be reassured that cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure, with very low rates of complications.
As an added bonus, quite often after a cataract has been removed, people find themselves much less dependent on glasses or contact lenses, particularly for long distance vision. This is because once the cataract has been extracted, an artificial lens is implanted in its place, which is typically calculated to correct for your eye’s prescription.
If you’ve opted for a premium multifocal lens implant, or have organised with your cataract surgeon to have an implant in one eye for distance and the other for near vision, you may not even need glasses for reading.
Your optometrist or ophthalmologist are the best people to diagnose and help you manage your cataracts. In the early stages, you may not need any surgical intervention as your vision is still quite reasonable. Even as the cataract progresses, you may find that simply updating your glasses or improving your task lighting around the home is enough to let you see comfortably enough. If and when the cataract reaches a stage where your sight is significantly affected, your eyecare professional will discuss cataract surgery with you.
Call us today on (03) 9070 3580.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
How Can I Prevent Cataracts?
Different Amounts of Alcohol Consumption and Cataract.