Cataract is caused by the natural process of ageing, which results in the clouding of the lens of the eye. As this progresses, it results in a progressive visual blur, and often, sensitivity to bright light. Sometimes, the patient may also experience colored halos. Most doctors agree that cataracts are inevitable, but there are interventions which can delay their progression, and consequently, the need for surgery. The centuries-old saying, prevention is better than cure, is as valid for cataract as for any other disease.
The significant ways of preventing and delaying the vision loss due to cataract are discussed in this article.
Modify your diet
A consistently healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, oily fish and whole grains may result in a decreased risk of cataracts. Antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals such as vitamins A, C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega 3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of cataract progression. As is true for the rest of the body, a healthy, balanced diet will result in healthy eyes.
Protection from Ultraviolet (UV) radiation
Shielding your eyes from harmful UV radiation is imperative. A wide-brimmed hat, scarf or dupatta can shield your eyes from the harmful rays in the sun. In addition to this, polarized sunglasses, photochromatic lenses and UV blocking contact lenses may be used to prevent UV induced damage to the eye. UV radiation is known to increase the risk of both cataract, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Smoking is also associated with an increase in the risk of both, cataract and AMD, just like UV radiation. It is because the adverse effects of both are caused by the release of free radicals in the body. Smoking increases the risk of cataract formation and progression almost three times.
Control your blood sugar
Increased blood sugar results in cataract formation. In fact, the average age at which people with diabetes with poor sugar control present with cataract, is much lower than that of the average population. It is therefore vital to ensure proper glycemic control. In addition, high blood sugars also predispose one to a potential sight-threatening condition called diabetic retinopathy in which new blood vessels are formed on the light-sensitive retina. These new blood vessels tend to leak both fluid and blood, resulting in retinal swelling and hemorrhages.
Traumatic cataract has no age predilection, that is, trauma at any age can result in the formation and progression of cataract. It is therefore essential to avoid eye injuries by taking appropriate preventive measures. The most important thing is to use protective eyewear, including glasses and eye shields, to prevent eye injuries in hazardous situations at work and play.
Avoid the unnecessary use of steroids
Steroids are potentially life-saving drugs, but their indiscriminate and rampant use has led to several problems. In India, even chemists prescribe steroids with little regard for their harmful effects. Also, people tend to self-medicate. Steroids must be taken only on medical advice, and under strict medical supervision. In fact, you must discuss with your doctor the option of using steroid-sparing drugs for your ailment, whenever possible.
Visit your eye doctor
Even if you have no symptoms, you must schedule an eye examination at regular intervals, especially after forty years of age. Routine visits allow your doctor to look for signs of cataract, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other vision disorders. This means that early intervention can be instituted, and your eye health and vision-related issues can be managed better.
What if I still get cataract?
These measures may help delay the formation of cataract and its progression, but like ageing, cataract is inevitable. In case you do have cataract, your eye doctor will prescribe glasses for you to use in the initial stages. In fact, the vision loss cannot be corrected by spectacles and starts to interfere with your everyday activities; your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of cataract surgery with intraocular lens implantation. Read more about the cataract surgery here.
Even though the name of the surgery sounds scary, it is a relatively safe and routine procedure carried out in almost all eye clinics around the world. Your doctor will help you choose the surgery and the lens best suited to your visual needs, and help restore your vision back to normal.