Cataract prevention

Is there such a thing as cataract prevention?

This is a question that has been revolving in the minds of ophthalmologists and biologists for many years. A lot of studies and trials have been made in this regard, but at the moment of writing, no specific medication has been identified as an inhibitor of cataract formation.

The good thing is that although cataract is inevitable once it starts taking form (and especially so if you are genetically predisposed towards getting it), yet its incidence can be delayed by following some simple instructions and advice that we will be reviewing throughout this article.

Wearing sunglasses to avoid ultraviolet radiation

This is one of the easiest and most convenient cataract prevention measures. The human lens is susceptible to damage by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight as sunlight contains huge amounts of ultraviolet radiation.

Several studies found that prolonged exposure to sunlight is one of the major risk factors linked with development of cortical cataract. Ultraviolet rays can change the chemical and physical nature of the transparent lens fibers, leading to their damage, and the subsequent formation of lens opacities.

A recent report by the WHO stated that ultraviolet rays might be responsible for up to 20% of cataract cases worldwide. By avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight and using sunglasses that assure 99% blockage of UVB rays and 95% blockage of UVA rays, this risk factor can be minimized.

Avoiding smoking

Aside from all diseases and health risks that smoking has been proven to be the main cause of, cigarette smoking has been proven to increase the risk of cataract development by 2-3 folds. Avoiding smoking is definitely a cataract prevention measure.

Dr. William Christen of the Harvard Medical School wrote, “Compared with non-smokers, current smokers of 20 or more cigarettes per day had approximately twice the risk of getting cataract”. Scientists found that smoking is associated with an increased incidence of cortical and nuclear lens opacities and cataract.

Smoking helps increase free radicals and other oxidants and toxins that help in accelerating the development of lens opacities by damaging the structure of the transparent lens fibers.

On the other hand, smoking decreases the levels of antioxidants and protective enzymes responsible for repairing the damage caused by the toxins and noxious substances found in tobacco. By avoiding smoking and quitting this bad habit, you decrease the risk of developing many diseases and health issues, including cataract.

Alcohol consumption

This is a debatable issue, but many studies found a link between alcohol consumption and cataracts. This is more evident in heavy alcohol consumers. It is also evident in patients who are both smokers and alcohol consumers.

Avoiding heavy alcohol consumption won’t only benefit your pocket but your eyes as well!

Multivitamins and antioxidants

These have been the cause of long lasting debate, and many studies and experiments were held to validate whether or not eating food rich in multi vitamins and antioxidants would help in delaying the incidence of cataract.

The results are contradictory with studies stating that multivitamins and antioxidants supplementation was shown to delay the incidence of cataract, and other studies finding no effect of multivitamins and antioxidants on the course of cataract development regarding incidence and progression.

Leading a healthy life and eating health food rich in vitamins and antioxidants and low in fats is definitely a good move you should start implementing. But even if this won’t delay your cataract, surely this is a move that your body will thank you for!

Have better control over your diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a well-documented major risk factor for developing early cataracts and also for accelerating the progression of already existing lens opacities into a visually significant cataract. Diabetes is the most common cause of adulthood blindness due to the ocular complications it results in, yet it is the most preventable cause of adulthood blindness.

Scientists have identified many of the mechanisms in diabetes that accelerate the process of the formation of lens opacities. These include:

  • Accumulation of harmful substances inside the lens leading to swelling of the lens.
  • Dispersal of free radicals and reactive oxygen molecules that damage the transparent lens fibers leading to formation of opacities.
  • Death of the cells responsible for the production of new transparent fibers instead of the damaged ones.

Having better control over your diabetes is not that difficult. It just needs a lifestyle modification to include time for regular physical activity, eating healthy food, continuous monitoring of your blood glucose level, following your medication schedule accurately, and regular visits and follow ups with your physician, etc.

By exerting good glycemic control over your diabetes, you can be sure that your eyes in particular and your body in general, will thank you for this wise move many years ahead from now! Suffice to say, preventing the onset of diabetes is also a good cataract prevention measure.

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