Cataracts are formed when the lens of the eye, which is normally clear, becomes clouded and eventually opaque or white and cloudy. The lens is located at the front of the eye ball and, like the lens of a camera, focuses light upon the retina which is located at the back of the eye. The lens is responsible for focusing the image that you see on to the retina where it is processed.
However, when the lens becomes damaged, it can become opaque, which limits its ability to contract and relax. It also cannot transmit light properly through it so this can cause blurriness in the image that you actually see. If the condition progresses, this can lead to blindness.
In fact, cataracts are one of the leading causes of preventable blindness reported in North America today. Cataract formation is associated with the aging process and develops from an enhanced degree of free radical activity occurring in the lens attributed to ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, chronic inflammation, and high blood sugar. During periods of prolonged or repeated sun exposure or high levels of blood glucose, the proteins contained within the lens can be damaged by free radicals. The lens is composed of layers of protein-collagen fibers which, after being damaged, are replaced with scar tissue, giving the lens its opaque appearance.
Many people have turned to diet and nutrition, to see if dietary changes can prevent cataracts. That’s why many people recommend eating antioxidant-rich food, such as berries, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, mangoes, and pomegranate. In my opinion, this strategy makes sense, as a diet rich in antioxidants has been shown to be protective in the development of cataracts.
There’s also a connection between diabetes and cataracts, as researchers have found an association between less blood sugar control and the development of cataracts. So there’s another reason to take control of your diabetes—it might prevent cataracts. If you have diabetes or are at an increased risk of developing it, get better control of your blood sugar by eating a healthier diet free of refined carbohydrates, sugar, saturated fat, fried foods, and junk food. Replace these unhealthy foods with vegetables, brown rice, oatmeal, oily fish, chicken, turkey, yogurt, nuts, seeds, olive oil, legumes, and fresh fruit.
Regular physical activity, including cardiovascular and resistance exercise, will improve insulin resistance and help you burn more fat.
But if there’s one thing you need to be aware of during Cataract Awareness Month, it’s the impact that UV lights have on your risk of developing cataracts. The continual exposure of sunlight can damage the lens by the UV-A and UV-B rays which can cause free radical activity inside the lens. Avoiding UV lights—and protecting your eyes from UV exposure—can definitely help prevent cataracts. There have also been some studies indicating that blue light emitted from video terminals and florescent tubes can cause cataracts as well.
The important point that I would like to make here is that June is Cataract Awareness Month which also signals the beginning of the summer. Although damage can occur to your eyes in the winter, people have a tendency to directly expose themselves to UV light in the summer months. For those of you who are contemplating this or if you reside in a sunnier destination, it’s very important that you wear protective eyewear which has been approved for 100% UV blockage. Finally, my last two tips: replace your light bulbs with soft white, non-florescent bulbs and use screen filters to prevent damage to your eyes from blue light sources.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Yam, J.C., et al., “Ultraviolet light and ocular diseases,” Int Ophthalmol. May 31, 2013.
Koushan, K., et al., “The role of lutein in eye-related disease,” Nutrients. May 22, 2013; 5(5): 1823-39.
Abdel-Aal, E.S.M., et al., “Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health,” Nutrients. April 9, 2013; 5(4): 1169-85.
Kitchel, E., “The effect of blue light on ocular health,” Council of Citizens with Low Vision International web site; http://www.cclvi.org/contributions/effects1.htm, last accessed June 10, 2013.