Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process, and they are also the leading cause of vision loss among those who are 55 and older. As we age, the lenses in our eyes thicken and become less flexible and less transparent. Proteins in the lens begin to clump together, creating cloudy areas that interfere with light refraction.
When it comes to cataracts, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that you will likely develop a cataract at some point in your lifetime. The good news is that you can lower the risk or delay the progression of cataracts by making some lifestyle changes. But first, you need to know what causes them:
Risk Factors for Developing Cataracts:
Chronic medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension and obesity can significantly increase your risk for cataracts and other secondary conditions. One of the best ways to manage diabetes, hypertension and obesity is to achieve a healthy body weight. It is important that you are under a doctor’s care to monitor your health and help you implement a healthy diet and exercise plan.
Smoking and Drinking
Cigarette smoke, alcohol and exposure to ultraviolet radiation can damage the structure and function of eye cells, making them vulnerable to cataracts. This is known as oxidative stress. You are causing molecular damage to your eyes when you smoke, drink alcohol or visit a tanning bed, so make a healthy choice for your eyes and kick those bad habits. Also, don’t forget to wear a hat and sunglasses when you go outside to protect your eyes from the sun’s UV rays.
Studies show that certain medications and treatments can increase your risk for cataracts. If you are on statin medications to lower your cholesterol or if you use hormone replacement therapy, talk to your ophthalmologist about your cataract risk. These medicines could affect cataract formation. Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications could also increase your risk, so ask your doctor about the known side effects. There may be a similar medication that could be substituted.
By adjusting your habits and making a few lifestyle changes, you could reduce your risk for cataracts. If your vision seems hazy or you notice that colors do not look vivid anymore, make an appointment with your ophthalmologist for a full eye exam with dilation. Cataract surgery is one of the most common and successful procedures performed in the United States, and it can help you regain clear vision and maintain your independence. Make an appointment with your ophthalmologist today to improve your vision health.