Treasure Your Vision — Cataract Prevention

The lenses of your eyes are uniquely wonderful.  They make it possible for you to see the world around.  However if not handled with proper care over the course of your lifetime, they can develop cataracts.

A cataract occurs in the lenses of your eyes when the special proteins that make up the lens become altered or damaged.  Essentially the lens protein infrastructure can suffer oxidative damage from many sources.  Normally your lenses are clear because the special proteins are interconnected in unique ways that allow light to pass through to reach the retina and optic nerve in the back of your eyes.  But when a cataract starts, your lenses begin to take on a more opaque/cloudy appearance.  The passage of light into the interior of your eyes becomes scattered or blocked leading to poor vision or even blindness.

It is the intent of this blog to reinforce protective steps you can take to increase the likelihood you may not develop serious cataract formation or maybe prevent them from occurring at all.  While these measures have been known to be helpful for eye lens health for over 30 years, newer technology devices, a changing atmosphere, and newer environmental toxins have come on the scene.  These protections are worth repeating.

At what age do cataracts appear?  While they can occur in young children, cataracts can become evident around 40 years of age.  The majority of incidence happens in 70 and 80- year old individuals and women have a greater chance of developing cataracts.

Here are some key actions you can take that may very well prevent your lenses from deteriorating.  They are not in any order of priority but all have links to cataract formation. Cataract occurrence needs to be viewed as having multi-causative factors whose combined effects may result in lens damage / alteration:

  • Protect your eyes outdoors with quality sunglasses that have strong UVA and UVB blocking capabilities.  This cannot be understated.  There is no particular time of the year when you need to shield your eyes from damaging light radiation.
  • Strong indoor lighting also has potential to be harmful to your lenses.  All light forms — natural or artificial — are really forms of energy.  When they strike a surface some of that energy is absorbed.  In the case of your skin you may be tanned or burned.  Your eye lenses can have the protein structures weakened.
  • Smoking, alcohol abuse and other chronic exposure to toxins in the home or work environment.  Volatile chemicals such as mothballs, household cleaners that many people are exposed to can increase the risk of cataract formation.
  • Microwaves, computer screen radiation and cell phone electromagnetic energy.  Again, these forms of energy exposure extended over time may have damaging effects on lens proteins.  Time and perhaps more research may tell.  Meanwhile you may want to monitor how much you expose your body and eye lenses to them.
  • Inadequate nutrition support for the lenses.  Your lenses contain some of the highest concentrations of certain nutrients compared to many cells found elsewhere in your body.  This includes vitamin C, the mineral potassium and an antioxidant made by your body called glutathione.  They serve to protect the integrity of your lens proteins.   ( Note:  Glutathione is made by all your body cells from three amino acids, building blocks of proteins..  Production is especially high in certain tissues such as your eye lenses where it serves to protect the interconnections among the special proteins from being damaged.  Glutathione production is supported by the presence of some selenium in the diet.
  • The lenses of your eyes are living tissues.  The proteins need to be replaced over time.  The vitamin B family is important to assure the replacement proteins produced are the proper types as well as healthy levels of glutathione production..
  • Vegetables and fruits are important because they contain the vitamin B family, minerals, vitamin C as well as other eye health antioxidants such as lutein, carotenes and zeaxanthin.
  • Observe your family history.  The tendency for cataract runs in families.
  • Medications — Long term use of some types of medications such as hydrocortisone has some links to cataract formation.  Consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Cataract surgery is one the more commonly-performed  procedures in the US with over 3 million done in 2015.  The health care cost exceeds $9 billion dollars with Medicare picking up a chunk of that.  Your vision is very important.  However if you exercise more preventive actions it is quite possible you may avoid cataract development from ever occurring.

 

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