What Cataracts Are and How You Can Prevent Them

As we age, our eyes go through a number of natural changes. Some of these changes – namely the development of cataracts – unfortunately cause vision loss. In fact, cataracts are the number one cause of vision loss in people over age 40, according to vision insurer VSP.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to prevent cataracts from forming or slow their progression.

If you do happen to be suffering from cataract symptoms today, however, a simple surgical procedure can often restore your clear vision. Today’s blog post will share more about how Campus Eye Center can help with all of your eye health concerns, including diagnosing and correcting cataracts.

What Are Cataracts?

In short, cataracts are a painless clouding of the normally clear lenses in your eyes. Cataracts blur or dim your vision, which makes it difficult to see in all situations, but especially at night.

Cataracts occur in many individuals as they age, and they may appear suddenly or form slowly over the course of years. Some people are born with cataracts due to genetic conditions, but these instances are rare, and so cataracts are generally considered to be an ophthalmological consequence of getting older.

Different Types of Cataracts

There are a few different classifications of cataracts that doctors have developed to describe how the cataract originated and how it affects a patient’s lens. These are:

  • Nuclear Cataracts – those that affect the center of the lens. Nuclear cataracts typically progress slowly and cause yellowing or browning of the lens, which leads to color perception changes.
  • Cortical Cataracts – affecting the edges of the lenses, cortical cataracts also typically have a slow progression. They appear as streaks of opacity that eventually impede light from properly entering the center of the lens.
  • Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts – this type begins at the back of the lens and causes a faster-progressing opacity than the other types. Dimmed vision and the perception of “halos” around lights, especially at night, are clues that you are developing posterior subcapsular cataracts.
  • Congenital Cataracts – this term describes any cataracts that are present from birth or develop in children as the result of genetic conditions or illnesses. These cataracts are usually corrected early in life as soon as they are found by an ophthalmologist.

What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?

When cataracts first begin to form, most people won’t notice any changes to their vision. Especially if you’re used to wearing glasses and have grown accustomed to needing prescription tweaks over the years, you may think nothing of initial warning signs of cataract development.

Knowing the symptoms of cataracts can help you avoid frustration and allow you to correct the problem before it becomes disruptive to your life and threatening to your safety. These include:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Light sensitivity and problems with glare, especially when driving or reading
  • Dimmed vision (brightly lit locations seem too dark)
  • Colors appear faded or yellowed
  • Double vision in a single eye

Leading Causes of Cataracts

The natural aging process is the number one risk factor for developing cataracts because the lenses of our eyes become less flexible, less transparent, and thicker over time. This happens whether or not you are otherwise healthy, though certain age-related conditions and health concerns, such as diabetes and eye infections, may increase tissue breakdown in the eyes and promote cataract formation. You may also simply be more prone to developing cataracts based on lifestyle choices or family history.

Cataract Prevention

Healthy habits can help prevent cataracts if developed earlier in life. Don’t worry if you are already over age 40 and just beginning to commit to a more eye-friendly lifestyle, however! The following tips can also help slow the progression of cataracts that have already begun to form.

Regular Eye Exams

Even for individuals who have perfect vision and don’t need glasses, yearly eye exams help prevent and correct eye disease, including cataracts. These exams can also help spot other health problems from diabetes to Lupus to thyroid dysfunction.

No Smoking

If you smoke now, stop. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start. Smoking has been proven to increase your risk of developing cataracts (among all of the habit’s other negative health consequences).

Eat a Healthy Diet with Plenty of Vitamin C & E

Based on scientific nutrition research, certain vitamins and minerals have been proven to be particularly “eye healthy.” Fill your plate with leafy greens and vitamin C-rich fruits. Also consider taking supplements if you don’t tend to get enough antioxidants, beta-carotene, or selenium in your diet.

Enjoy Alcohol in Moderation

Like smoking, overindulging in alcohol on a regular basis makes it more likely that you will develop cataracts.

Wear Sunglasses

It’s true that sunglasses can make you look cool, but you should also be wearing them to protect your eyes from UVA/UVB light. Whenever you’re spending time outside, especially on sunny days, you should be sporting your shades.

Manage Other Health Issues

As we already touched on, diabetes and other health issues can increase your risk of developing cataracts. Keeping healthy blood sugar levels and managing all of your health conditions is good for your eyes, no matter your age.

Current Research on Alternative Medicine for Cataracts

While we often caution our patients to not try alternative healing regimens for cataracts or other eye disease and vision concerns without first consulting a trained ophthalmologist, we understand that many people are interested in natural remedies.

Refer back to our list of prevention techniques above for the best “alternative” ways to prevent cataracts out there. Getting proper nutrition is one of the best things you can do for eye health.

Campus Eye Center Can Help You Prevent and Treat Cataracts

In the Lancaster, PA area, Campus Eye Center is recognized as one of the best resources for helping patients live better by seeing better. If you’re concerned about your risk for developing cataracts or believe you may already have them, we invite you to contact us for an appointment today.