Seven Cataract Risk Factors

A cataract is formed when proteins in the lens of the eye clump together, forming opaque clusters. Over time these proteins cloud the lens, allowing less light to pass through, blurring vision. The most common type is related to aging of the eye. How quickly one develops varies from person to person but usually from free radical damage over a long period of time. Risk factors include:

  1. Poor nutrition.
  2. Injury to the eye.
  3. Diabetes or other medical problems.
  4. Family history.
  5. Medications, especially steroids.
  6. Long term, unprotected exposure to sunlight.
  7. Radiation.

No medications or dietary supplement have been shown to cure cataracts. The only treatment is to surgically remove the natural lens and replace it with a new artificial lens.

The question is can lens clouding be prevented. The answer is apparently no. But if sunlight is one cause and free-radical damage is another then the clouding of a natural lens can at least be slowed by wearing eye protection and ingesting appropriate antioxidants.

One study indicated that the carotenoid, zeaxanthin, can help prevent clouding of the lens in our eyes. Zeaxanthin is found in canned sweet corn (yellow), bell peppers, raw Japanese persimmons, mandarin tangerines, and cooked dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. Blue berries and blackberries are also great sources of antioxidants. Remember to consult with your physician before starting any nutritional supplementation program. Nutritional supplements do not cure or prevent illness and disease.  They only give the body the extra nutrition it needs to take care of itself!  A healthy lifestyle starts with good nutrition.

My right eye suffered some trauma in 2010 that resulted in clouding of the lens in that eye to the point that it interferred with driving and my work. This was a frightening experience. The vision was obstructed in just a matter of a few weeks, which is much faster than normal. My left eye was unaffected.

The surgeon explained that high frequency sound waves would be used to break up the clouded natural lens. This would be accomplished by inserting a probe through a very small incision in the cornea. As the natural lens breaks up, it would be suctioned out by the probe. It still sounded frightening to me.

The outpatient surgery to replace my clouded lens with a standard artificial lens took about two hours and was covered by our Medicare replacement insurance. I was given a sedative just before surgery so I don’t recall too much. I did not experience any pain. I do remember a kaleidoscope of colors. It took about ten days for my “new eye” to function normally. Now about one year later, the vision in my right eye is very good.

While there are risks involved with any surgical procedure, the risks for this surgical procedure are lower than they have ever been. I am certainly pleased with the outcome that I experienced.

References and suggested reading:

  • Go to retirement resources.
  • "cataract." Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011.

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