Try these simple tips to potentially lower your chance of cataract development
While there is no scientifically proven method for preventing cataracts, there is some evidence that certain good habits could lessen the risk of or delay cataracts for some people.
Whether you’re trying to keep your cataracts from progressing or trying to avoid them altogether, the following tips offer safe options for potential help:
Routine eye exams
Don’t ditch your eye doctor. When trying to prevent any eye condition, it is important to schedule and show up for regular eye exams. These exams allow your eye doctor to evaluate the condition of your vision and the overall health of your eyes.
Eye doctors are able to detect the beginning stages of cataract formation and can give you professional suggestions on how to prevent or slow their development.
Comprehensive eye exams should be scheduled every two years for people aged 18 to 60. Those over 60 should have eye exams every year going forward.
Individuals who are at a greater risk of developing serious eye conditions or have been diagnosed with an eye condition may be required to have exams more frequently.
Wear your sunnies
Excessive UV exposure is one of the leading causes of cataracts. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation says 10% of cataracts cases are due to unprotected sun exposure that accumulates over time.
The solution is as simple as wearing a pair of quality sunglasses that has the following features:
Blocks 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays
Fit properly on your face and sit closely to your eyes
Filter 75% to 90% of visible light
Wearing sunglasses whenever you’re outdoors — no matter what time of year it is — can help reduce your chances of developing cataracts. While you’re at it, throw on a hat to further protect your eyes and skin from sun damage that can lead to unwanted wrinkles and skin cancer.
SEE RELATED: Best sunglass options after cataract surgery
Keep your health in check
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will reflect positively in your eye and vision health. For those who have high blood pressure and/or diabetes, monitoring your levels and keeping them within a safe limit will help lower your risk of developing cataracts.
Diabetics are at a higher risk of developing vision issues, especially cataracts. This is due to the fact that when your blood sugar stays elevated for a prolonged amount of time, it can cause the lenses of your eyes to swell.
It’s also common for lenses to take blood sugar and turn it to sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that metabolizes more slowly than glucose. When sorbitol collects in the lenses, it causes low visibility and creates a perfect environment for cataracts to form.
Incorporating regular exercise into your routine will help with many things, one of them being obesity, which is a risk factor for cataracts. Studies have also shown that moderate exercise can lower your blood pressure, which doesn’t just reduce your chances of cataracts, but lowers your risk of stroke by 14% and heart disease by 9%.
Enjoy a colorful, healthy diet
Plenty of research has been done on whether good nutrition can prevent cataracts. Generally, making sure that you eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, specifically those with lots of vitamin C and E, could help prevent cataracts. Foods that include these magical vitamins include:
Green vegetables (broccoli, spinach and brussel sprouts)
Citrus (oranges, limes and grapefruit)
Nuts (almonds and hazelnuts)
Mango, kiwifruit and cantaloupe
Sunflower seeds and sunflower oil
Sweet and white potatoes
In addition to fruits, veggies and nuts, consuming fish and other omega-3-rich foods will improve your overall eye health. Turmeric is a known anti-inflammatory, which can work wonders for those who struggle with eye inflammation.
Most importantly? Drink water! Dehydration is hard on your body in many ways, especially your eyes. Drinking plenty of water is a surefire way to keep your eyes hydrated and healthy.
Avoid smoking and excessive drinking
If you’re looking for a way to prevent cataracts, tossing out your cigarettes is the best place to start. The toxins from cigarettes harm your eyes in many ways, but for cataracts in particular, smoking doubles your chances of developing them.
Even if you’re doing everything else right, as far as the other means of prevention, smoking is harmful enough to cancel out those efforts. Kicking the habit will significantly lower your cataract risk and reduce your chances for other smoking-related health issues.
Excessive alcohol intake is another habit that can spike your cataract risk. While alcohol consumption isn’t a threat when done in moderation, having multiple drinks on a daily basis can not only increase your likelihood of developing cataracts but can cause them to develop sooner.
Moderate your screen time
Those who are trying to prevent cataracts may choose to limit the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. Research studies on how blue light affects different parts of the eye have not found conclusive evidence that the amount of blue light emitted from digital screens is harmful to the eyes or causes cataracts. (The amount of blue light emitted by the sun can damage the eyes).
However, limiting screen time or investing in a pair of blue-light-blocking glasses are both safe options for those who are interested in reducing the amount of digital blue light entering their eyes.
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Check the side effects of your eye drops or medication
Eye drops with steroids are often used to reduce inflammation or scarring within the eye. While this is helpful for individuals who struggle with these issues, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says a common side effect of steroidal eye drops is the development of cataracts.
Other medications, both oral and topical, have cataract growth as a side effect. The most common medications with this side effect are corticosteroids that are prescribed to treat symptoms experienced with autoimmune diseases.
It’s important to review the side effects associated with your current medication and find out if there are any alternative treatments that don’t raise your cataract risk.
Is it possible to completely prevent cataracts?
Unfortunately, no. While practicing the suggestions provided above could potentially help delay or prevent cataracts, there is currently no definite, permanent way to keep them from developing.
This uncertainty emphasizes the need for regular eye exams to make sure everything within and beneath the lens looks good. If you’re over age 40 (the age where cataracts typically begin to form) and have not had an eye exam in more than two years, it’s time to schedule an exam. SEE RELATED: What to expect during a cataract test
Page updated August 2020