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