Clouding of the lens within the eye, behind the iris and pupil, is a cataract. They are found in people over the age of 40 more frequently, but they can occur in those younger as well. Prevent Blindness America reports that cataracts are diagnosed more often worldwide than a combination of diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. They are so common that 22 million Americans are affected by them in the over 40 age category.
Three Types of Cataracts
It is important to know the types of cataracts because they can be caused by certain events and medications.
Nuclear Cataracts are the most common, and the usual cause for these is aging. They are found in the central area of the lens within the eye, sometimes referred to as the nucleus.Subcapsular Cataracts are at the back of the lens and commonly happen with people taking large steroid medication doses as well as people with diabetes. Those that have been on steroid nasal sprays can also be at a higher risk.
Cortical Cataracts usually start in the periphery (or outer edges) of the lens and look like white wedge-like clouds. As they progress, they begin to look like wide bicycle spokes. These are found on the cortex of the lens or area surrounding the central nucleus.
Causes of Cataracts and Understanding Them
The eye’s lens is primarily protein and water with the protein precisely arranged to keep vision clear allowing light to pass through the lens. But as people age, sometimes the protein starts to bind together in clumps. Those clumps of protein form the cataract over time. As they grow, vision becomes cloudy and more difficult to focus or even see at all in extreme cases. We usually tell our patients that vision with cataracts is kind of like looking through a dirty windshield!
There are only guesses as to why aging has this side effect, but researchers have determined other factors that can cause their formation. These include diabetes, obesity, hypertension, smoking and significant consumption of alcohol, long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation (through sunlight and other things), and previous eye surgery or injury/inflammation in the eyes. They can also be caused by cholesterol reducing statin medications, lengthy use of corticosteroid meds, hormone replacement therapy, family history, and high myopia.
Current research suggests that the addition of fruits and veggies to the diet, especially those high in antioxidants, may be helpful for prevention or reduction of cataracts. Other studies indicate that increased intake of Vitamin E can help. Vitamin E can be found in almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, or supplements. Another thing you can do is wear polarized sunglasses every time you're outdoors! Make sure to check out our wide selection of sunglasses and protect yourself whenever you're outside.
Have you been diagnosed with cataracts?
One Love,Dr. Travis
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