The National Eye Institute explains that a cataract is a lens that clouds and affects your ability to see, and that most cataracts are related to getting older. More than 50% of Americans who turn 80, will have had a cataract. Cataracts do not spread and are not contagious and if you have them prior to age 60, it is likely they will not affect vision.
In normal eyes, the lens which is behind the iris and pupil, focuses light through the vitreous humour. The retina receives the image that the cornea focusus through the eyes lens and tranforms it into impulses carried by the optic nerve to the brain. This allows us to see things both near and far, clearly.
The lens is made of both water and protein and in a normal lens it is clear, allowing light to pass through. If there is a cataract, you can see images as blurred or even colored yellow or brownish.
Cataracts can come from diabetes, steroid use, trauma or radiation or they arise at birth-and for this blog, we focus on age-related cataracts. Aging can make the protein of the lens clump together and start to cloud a small area. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger, clouding more of the lens and making it harder to see.
It is suspected that there are several causes of cataract. Or just aging' "wear and tear".
What you can do to minimize your risk of cateracts:
- Wear sunglasses-Ultra violet radiation and short wave infared exposure to sunlight is associated with a higher prevalence of age-related cataracts(a).
- Wear a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight-this may help to delay cataracts
- Stop smoking.
- Avoid a lot of alcohol use.
- Minimize your diabetes risk.
- Take Vitamin C[i]-a Chinese study looked at 20 studies for vitamin C and 10 for serum ascorbate. They recommend a higher intake of this and serum ascorbate for possible primary prevention of cataracts.
- Eat vegetables[ii] -a review 6,464 cataract cases with 112,447 participants suggests that greater vegetable consumption compared with the lowest level of cataracts in America, but not other populations..
- Eat fruit and foods rich in antioxidants.
- Try Vitamin A and beta-carotine[iii] as they are inversely associated with cateract risk based on reviewing 22 articles. The more the use, the lower the risk.
- Avoid Oxidative stress- or the imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by antioxidants. This study found a protein (Ku80) in humans which relates to the immune system, etc. and[iv]which plays a role if it is depleted in the lens through stress and aging, etc. which can negatively affect the lens clarity-so it is feasible that ku80 can retard cataract formation.
- Speak to your doctor about taking Lutein and Zeaxanthin[v]-these pigments, found in the retina, have been studied regarding a host of eye diseases and reported to be beneficial in protecting tissues and cells from damage from blue light oxidative stress and having anti-inflammatory and other preventative properties.
- Use of a lubricating drop called N-Acetylcarnosine which can prevent and reverse cataract disease apparently[vi] as this study discribes overcoming oxidative stress and shortened telomeres through this eye drop.
- Try curcumin-a study this year(vii) shoes that this antioxidant is better than others in preventing cataract.
A lot of new information is out there. Be sure to consult with your doctor about what is best for you!
[a] Eye (Lond.) 2016 Feb;30(2):241-6.doi: 10.1038/eye.2015.266. Epub 2016 Jan15. Does infared or ultraviolet light damage the lens? Soderberg, et. Al.
[i] Acta Ophthalmol. 2016 May; 94(3): 3170-6. Doi: 10.1111/aos.12688.Epub 2015 Mar 4. Association of Vitamin C with the risk of age-related cateract: a meta-analysis. Wei L, et al.
[ii] Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015 Oct 15;8(10):18455-61 eCollection 2015 Association between vegetables consumption and the risk of age related cataract: a meta-analysis. Huang G, et al.
[iii] Nutrition. 2014 Oct; 30(10): 1113-21. Doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.02.025. Epub 2014 Mar 12. Association of vitamin A and Beta Carotine with risk for age-related cataract: a meta-analysis. Wang A, Han, Jiang, Zhand D.
[iv] Invest Ophthalmo Vis Sci. 2015 Dec; 56(13):7868-74. Doi: 10.1167/iovs.15-18309 Ku80 Counters Oxidative Stress-Induced DNA Damage and Cataract Formation in the Human Lens.
[v] J Ophthalmol. 2015;2015:523027.doi:10.1155/2015/522027. Epub 2015 Nov 5. Management of Ocular Diseases Using Leutein and Zeaxanthin: What Have We Learned from Experimental Animal Studies? Xue C, et al.
[vi] Recent Pat Drug Deliv Formul. 2015 Jun 17. Epub. Telomere Attrition in Human Lens Epithelial Cells Associated with Oxidative Stress Provide a New Therapeutic Target for the Treatment, Dissolving and Prevention of Cataract with N-Acetylcarnosine Lubricant Eye Drops. Babizhayev MA, Yegorov Ye.
(vii)Pharmol Rep 2016 Jan 22;68(3)561-569.doi: 10.1016/j.pharep.2015.12.012. Cytoprotective mechanism of action of curcumin against cataract. Raman T, et al.