Friday, November 26, 2021

How to Prevent Cataracts? - 5 Best Tips

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In today's article, I would like to talk to you about how to prevent cataracts. I will give you 5 tips that we can do to prevent developing cataracts early and slow down the progression of cataracts as we age. Most of the time when we think about cataracts, we think it is a disease that exclusively affects elderly people. But that's not always the case.

how-to-prevent-cataracts

Typically cataracts start developing around age 40, by age 80, more than 70% of people develop visually significant cataracts. By 2050, the number of people in the US with cataracts is expected to double from 24.4 million to about 50 million. It is true that the most common form of cataracts is age-related, but this is not to say that people younger than 40 do not develop cataracts.

As a cataract surgeon, I have removed cataracts in people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and older. There are different forms of cataracts that can affect people of different ages and those different forms of cataracts typically have different causes.

According to a study Published in the UK

A study of 2054 twins in the UK was published in 2016 in the journal ophthalmology, reported that 35% of cataract progression is affected by genetics, and individuals' environmental factors account for 65% of the impact.

We can't change our genetics. but what are the things that we can do to prevent and slow down cataract growth?

5 Tips to Prevent Cataracts

Let's go over my 5 tips for cataract prevention that you can incorporate into your daily life.

1. Wear Sunglasses

Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from excessive UV exposure. Cataracts form when the natural lens inside of your eyes loses its transparency instead of transmitting light rays to the layer of the nerve tissue at the back of your eyes.

The retina forms clear images, It becomes cloudy and causes blurry vision and glares from bright lights especially at night. The clouding of our natural lens is due to a process called oxidative stress.

The natural lens is made mostly of water and proteins. The UV-light rays can damage the lens proteins through a process called glycation. Triggering harmful oxidative reactions in the lens and causing the lens proteins to become cloudy.

Among the two different types of UV light rays UVA and UVB. UVA penetrates more deeply into the body and may be more likely to reach the lens. Studies have found that even in the absence of oxygen, UVA light can cause protein glycation in the lens.

However, research has shown that the natural antioxidant in the eyes is called glutathione. It offers very little protection against the damaging effect of UV-light rays. several clinical studies have tested the potential of antioxidant glutathione supplements to prevent or slow down the development of age-related cataracts, but the results were mixed.

So it is important to wear sunglasses with good UV protection when you are outdoors for a long period of time, to block the harmful UV light rays from reaching the natural lens in our eyes.

2. Stop Smoking

The process of cataract formation is through damage to the proteins in the natural lens through oxidative stress. Smoking tobacco is well known to increase oxidative damage in our bodies by promoting oxidation and increasing free radical activity throughout our bodies.

Smoking can also indirectly increase oxidative stress by depleting antioxidants in our bodies. Additionally, the heavy metals contained in the tobacco by-products such as cadmium, lead, and copper can accumulate in the natural lens and cause toxicity.

So in addition to damaging our lungs and blood vessels, smoking also increases the risk of the early development of cataracts. Studies have shown that smoking-related damage to the lens may be reversible after smoking cessation.

But the reversal effect of stopping smoking can take decades and the damage to the lens may only be partially reversible. So it is a good idea to stop smoking as early as possible.

3. Healthy Diet

Eat a healthy diet that is high in antioxidants. Since cataract formation is due to oxidative stress, You should have a diet that's high in natural antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables. Especially dark leafy greens to help maintain our body's natural ability to combat oxidative stress, Which accumulates naturally through aging.

There have been many studies trying to investigate the effect of dietary supplements on cataract prevention such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Some of the retrospective studies found a protective effect of both dietary intake and supplementation of those vitamins. However, supplement trials have largely failed to find any protective effect of dietary supplements on cataract prevention.

Also, some studies have suggested supplementing glutathione may help prevent or even reverse cataracts. However, the effectiveness of oral supplementation of glutathione is very controversial. Due to the low absorption of glutathione oral supplements, which is due to an intestinal enzyme GGT (y-glutamyl transpeptidase).

I would recommend eating a healthy balanced diet that contains a good amount of dark leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli, fruits like citrus, berries, and avocados that are high in antioxidants that are sold over the counter.

4. Blood Sugar Control

This is especially important for people with diabetes. People with diabetes form cataracts through a process called osmotic stress. It is often responsible for rapid cataract formation in people with uncontrolled blood sugar and diabetes.

Osmotic stress is caused by the accumulation of the type of sugar called sorbitol in the natural lens, which damages the lens cells and fibers, Additionally increased sugar level in the fluid in your eyes is called aqueous humor that can also increase glycation of the lens protein and increase the oxidative stress in our eyes causing early cataract formation.

Studies have shown a 3 to 4 fold increase in the prevalence of cataracts in people with diabetes under the age of 65. The risk is increased in people with a longer duration of diabetes and in those with poor blood sugar control.

Besides early cataract formation, diabetes and uncontrolled blood sugar can also cause damage to other parts of our eyes such as the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy. Therefore it is important to have good blood sugar control if you have diabetes or modify your lifestyle to prevent diabetes.

5. Avoid Long-Term Use of Steroids

long term corticosteroid exposure can come from many different sources such as eye drops, oral tablets, inhalers, topical creams, injections, and etc. Long-term steroids use can cause a specific type of cataract called posterior subcapsular cataract or PSC.

Psc cataracts typically have dense plaques formed on the thin capsular membrane that wraps around the natural lens. PSC cataracts can often cause significant vision loss over a relatively short period of time.

Corticosteroids are often prescribed to treat certain types of arthritis, dermatitis, or respiratory disease. It is important to remember that if you are prescribed corticosteroids long-term, you should discuss with your doctor the potential side effects of long-term steroid usage, and have a regular eye exam with your eye doctor to monitor for early cataract formation. 

Besides the five tips that I mentioned in this post, there are a few other causes of early cataract formation such as trauma to the eye. Eye surgeries for glaucoma and retinal disease.

If you have noticed any changes in your vision and increased light sensitivity. It is important to see an eye doctor find the cause of your vision change.

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