In the United States, cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss. Though cataracts are a common condition, maybe you have a parent, grandparent or close friend that has had surgery, our familiarity shouldn’t take away from the importance of the issue. We use health observance days, weeks or months to help bring attention to issues that can affect you. And this month, as your vision benefits provider, we’re sharing some useful information for Cataract Awareness Month. Here are three topics to start a good knowledge foundation. It is also recommended to consult with your eye doctor about any concerns you might have about cataracts or other vision health questions.
What is a cataract?
A cataract, considered a medical condition, is a clouding on the lens of your eye. The cloudiness prevents light from entering the eye. Cataracts can cause blurred vision or complete vision loss. There are also different types of cataracts such as congenital, traumatic and secondary. Age-related cataracts are the most common and usually develop after age 40.
Surgery is the only way to completely treat vision loss caused by cataracts, but whether surgery is necessary depends on your specific condition. There are other treatments like contacts or glasses, but surgery is recommended when your vision loss interferes with your ability to perform normal and everyday tasks.
Symptoms can develop over time
Age-related cataracts will develop over time, so you might not notice changes in your vision right away. If you have a cataract, the ways your vision can be affected include:
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Vision trouble at night
- Fading of bright colors or yellow vision
If you’re changing your eyeglass prescription more often without much improvement to your vision, this could be a sign or symptom. Not often, but sometimes, you’ll be able to see a cataract in your eye. It will look like a cloudy or yellow-colored spot in your pupil. If you have any of these symptoms, or notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your eye doctor.
Some risk factors, but no definitive cause
Researchers have not found the definitive reason cataracts form, but there are factors that could put you at higher risk of developing a cataract. Some of these risk factors include:
- Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays
- Family history
- Eye injury or inflammation
- Long-term use of steroids
- Excessive alcohol use
According to Prevent Blindness, the leading volunteer eye health and safety organization that named Cataract Awareness Month, as you get older, “you are at greater risk of developing a cataract” and they explain a cataract, most often, is a part of getting older.
Possible prevention with carotenoids
On the other hand, maintaining a healthy diet and getting the right nutrients could possibly help prevent cataracts from developing. Certain carotenoids, or antioxidants, may protect against cataracts, according to the American Optometric Association. The two types of carotenoids that studies show help in cataract prevention include lutein and zeaxanthin. Maintaining a diet that incorporates these nutrients can be beneficial in preventing cataracts. The American Optometric Association suggests eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, which can provide about 5 to 6 mg of carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Some foods rich in these nutrients include kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, peas, turnip greens and tangerines. Using sunglasses to protect yourself and your kids from UV rays that can contribute to cataract development is also an important part of a healthy vision lifestyle.
We encourage you to schedule your annual comprehensive dilated eye exam to maintain healthy vision and detect cataracts or other vision problems.