By age 70, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Though age is the most common risk factor, you may be at a higher risk of developing cataracts if you smoke, use steroid medications, suffered an eye injury, have diabetes, have had prolonged exposure to sunlight, have high blood pressure or are obese. Patients who have had successful cataract surgery are 15% less prone to hip fractures then people who have not. So, cataract surgery not only improves your vision, but also your balance.
Next time you’re shopping for sunglasses, keep in mind that they should look good on you and keep damaging rays from the sun away from your eyes. Too much sunlight can raise your risk of getting cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Damage from the sun can build up over a lifetime, so make sure you and your children wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation and a hat with a wide brim when outside. Some sunglasses do not filter out the harmful UV rays. Look for sunglasses that will filter 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB light.
People with diabetes are more likely than people without diabetes to develop certain eye diseases. In fact, diabetic eye disease – including diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma – is a leading cause of blindness. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop related eye problems. Often there are no symptoms in the early stages of diabetic eye disease, so everyone with diabetes should get an eye exam with dilated pupils at least once a year.
Until recently, cataract surgeons – not their patients – weighed the risk and benefits of intraocular lenses, or IOLs. (IOLs are the artificial lenses that replace the eye’s natural lens that is removed during cataract surgery). But now that IOLs are being used to solve more vision problems than ever, and there are more to choose from, cataract patients are becoming more involved in their IOL choice. Ask your doctor about your different IOL options.
More than 1 million people suffer from eye injuries each year in the United States. Ninety percent of these cases could have been prevented if the individual was wearing appropriate protective eyewear. Next time you’re using household chemicals, mowing the lawn, playing sports or working on the car, take extra precautions. Choose protective eyewear, including glasses, goggles and face shields, with “ANSI Z87.1” marked on the lens or frame. This label means they meet the American National Standard Institute safety standard.
When an eye injury occurs, have an ophthalmologist or other medical doctor exam the eye as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor. Remember that serious injuries aren’t always obvious at first. For all eye injuries, do not touch, run water over or apply pressure to the eye; do not try to remove any object stuck in the eye; and do not apply ointment or medication to the eye unless instructed to by a physician.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40 – the age when early signs of eye disease and vision changes occur. Individuals at any age with symptoms of eye disease or eye disease risk factors (like high blood pressure, family history or diabetes) should see their doctor to determine how often your eyes should be examined.
What we eat may help protect against cataracts, glaucoma and macular generation. Studies have found that Vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin promote good eye health. Omega-3 fatty acids also support eye health. Try to eat two servings of fish per week, along with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
We’ve all heard that eating carrots will improve eye health. Although an excellent source of Vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy vision, carrots don’t provide all of the nutrients that contribute to eye health. Some other pro-eye foods include nuts, seeds, oils, dark green leafy vegetables, oranges, corn, broccoli, peas, red grapes, papaya, milk and tomatoes.
Some people think they’ll walk out of cataract surgery with perfect 20/20 vision, but that’s not always the case. Though you can return quickly to many everyday activities, your vision may be blurry. The eye needs time to heal and to adjust so that it can focus properly with the other eye, especially if it has a cataract as well. Ask your doctor what to expect and when you can resume driving.
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June is Cataract Awareness Month, a time to learn about cataracts and how nutrition