Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cataracts

ysm diabetesAge-related cataracts are considered a multifactorial condition. This means that there are many risk factors for cataracts, and many seem unrelated. Cataracts are linked to many other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, low body mass index, glaucoma and renal failure. While not appearing to be linked, these diseases may have a significant impact on your sight.

One of the many risk factors for developing cataracts is diabetes. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults aged 20-74. High blood sugar associated with diabetes can cause the lens of the eye to swell, which alters your vision. It may take as long as three months to regulate your blood sugar and get your vision back to normal again. If you have diabetes and are noticing a change in your vision, do not just assume you need new glasses. It could be an indication that you have a developing glaucoma or cataracts.

Although anyone can develop a cataract, people with diabetes are more prone to cataracts at an earlier age. Also, a diabetic will experience faster progression of cataracts than a non-diabetic. If you have diabetes and are noticing that you have blurred or glared vision or are having trouble focusing, visit your eye doctor immediately for an exam (Source: WebMD).

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. More studies are proving the toxic effect of oxidative damage to our cells by free radicals (unstable molecules in the environment that steal electrons from healthy body tissues). Oxidative damage plays a significant role in the development of heart disease and cataract formation, so the development of a cataract may be a marker for other diseases such as heart disease. When cells are damaged by free radicals, it is highly possible that the cells are not isolated to just one area of the body.

Conversely, some medications that treat heart disease put you at higher risk for developing cataracts. Statin medications such as Zocor, Lipitor, Lescol, Pravochol and Crestor which lower cholesterol and prevent cardiovascular disease may place you at risk for cataracts. A study in the British Medical Journal found that statin medications increased the risk of developing cataracts in both men and women between 25-56 percent. Cataract risk was significantly increased within one year of taking prescribed statins.  It stayed consistently higher during treatment, yet risk returned to normal within one year of stopping treatment (Source: AllAboutCataracts).