Cataracts: 101 - Art of Optiks
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Old man in an eye examination

Cataracts: 101

As the leading worldwide cause of vision impairment and blindness, cataract awareness can be optimized by being conscious of your lifestyle and monitoring your vision changes. Unfortunately, there are no natural remedies to prevent or cure cataracts, but adjusting your lifestyle has proved to have a significant impact on your overall health.

What Are Cataracts?

A cataract occurs in the lens of the eye and can be initially identified by clouding. The lens is an oval structure consisting mostly of protein and water located behind the iris and pupil. The protein molecules of the lens are generally arranged in a latticework layout which keeps it transparent and allows light to pass through to the retina. The lens also fine-tunes the focus of the eye, which is how you can see images both near and far away. Once the light reaches the retina, it is evolved into nerve signals which are sent to the brain and portrayed as sight. The lens must be clear to relay a sharp image to the retina; otherwise, your vision becomes blurry.

Over time, protein fibers located in the lens become oxidized and clump together influenced by many different factors. The protein clumps continue to evolve, resulting in detrimental effects on your vision. Vision will appear blurred as the clumps prevent light from passing through the eye, meaning the images sent to your brain from the retina and optic nerve are incomplete. Double vision, yellow or darker vision, and haziness are all detriments you may experience as well.

Causes and Symptoms

Cataracts grow slowly over time, so monitoring your vision and identifying subtle changes is vital to detecting cataracts early. Subtle changes in vision that progress over time are commonly the first sign, but you may also experience difficulties with color interpretation, reading signs or written material, distance vision, and many more. It is encouraged to schedule a visit with an eye doctor for early intervention to delay further symptoms from occurring.

Doctors typically diagnose cataracts using a handheld ophthalmoscope, but dilation of the pupil during a comprehensive eye exam can also assist during diagnosis as it allows for clear visualization of the anatomy of your eye. While poor eye health is related to many different lifestyle factors, the risk of cataract formation varies with several factors other than age.

  • Trauma

  • Surgery
  • Medications
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Stress

Lifestyle Changes

While there are not any proven ways to prevent cataracts entirely, adjusting your lifestyle can prolong effects from occurring as well as decrease your chances of being diagnosed with them. Establishing a healthy lifestyle is not only beneficial for the prevention of cataracts but also improves your wellbeing entirely as you’re giving more attention to your body’s health requirements.

Eat Right

While you cannot alter your age or health history, changes to your diet to increase amounts of antioxidants have the potential of preventing cataracts. The lens of the eye and the aqueous humor contain protective enzymes that breakdown the protein clumps. An antioxidant-rich diet keeps these enzymes from being destroyed as a variety of antioxidants are already present in the lens tissue and fluid that surrounds it. Many different foods and spices can be incorporated into your diet to begin your transition to a healthier lifestyle.

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Mangoes
  • Kale
  • Bell Peppers
  • Corn
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Bok Choy

Quit Smoking

Smoking is harmful to your lungs, heart, and eyes. The presence of free radicals increases, which are chemicals that harm cells. Antioxidants fight the toxic chemicals and are found in fruits and vegetables. Smoking decreases the levels of non-toxic chemicals and antioxidants, resulting in heightened toxins that can cause cataracts.

Wear Sunglasses

Increased exposure to ultraviolet light causes changes in your eyes and damage to the proteins in your lens. Having proper protection for your eyes from the sun is a great preventative practice to adapt to your lifestyle as it can prevent the onset of cataracts. There are many different styles and factors to consider that are aesthetically appealing and still provide protection for your eyes.

  • Block out 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays
  • Screen out 75 to 90% of visible light
  • Fit your face shape
  • Frames close to your eyes
  • Gray tint

Limit Alcohol

Responsible and occasional alcohol consumption does not have a significant effect on the risk of cataracts, but if you are consuming more than two drinks a day, your chances are heightened substantially. It is highly recommended to limit yourself to fewer than two standard-size drinks each day as any more than that increases your risk.

Monitor Blood Sugar

Keeping track of your blood sugar, and monitoring any fluctuations is very important. Individuals with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts, so maintaining proper blood sugar levels is vital. The lens of your eye swells if blood sugar levels stay too high for too long. Blood sugar is also changed into sorbitol by the lens, which collects, causing you to have blurred vision and heightens the risk of a cataract forming.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Establishing a consistent schedule for your comprehensive eye exams is crucial to your health as your doctor can spot problems early on. There is a higher likelihood that preventative measures can be taken to prolong the onset of cataracts if they are identified. Regular eye exams are of top priority for older individuals as they are more likely to be diagnosed with cataracts. If you’re between the ages of 40 and 64, a complete eye exam should be conducted every 2 to 4 years, and those over the age of 65 should get a comprehensive eye exam every 1 to 2 years. Regular eye exams also allow your doctor to detect potential risks for eye diseases.

Final Word

Cataracts can be extremely detrimental to your vision and may even cause blindness. Being conscious of your lifestyle and monitoring your vision changes are the first steps to cataract prevention and delay of symptoms. There are several factors, such as trauma and stress that can increase your potential for cataracts. While there are no proven natural remedies to prevent or cure cataracts, there are many lifestyle adjustments that can decrease your chances and improve your health. Ultimately, establish and maintain a consistent schedule for your comprehensive eye exams as this allows your doctor to spot problems early on.

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