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According to the National Institutes of Health, cataracts are the most common cause of blindness in the world, affecting more than 22 million individuals in America alone. More than half of all people in the U.S. will experience some form of cataracts, or undergo cataract surgery by age 80. To put the statistics succinctly, there is an excellent chance that you will develop cataracts at some point in your life.

Let’s take a closer look at how cataracts are formed, and what you can do to prevent cataracts from forming in your eyes:

HOW CATARACTS DEVELOP

The eye’s lens consists of mostly water and proteins. The proteins are arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens transparent and allows light to pass through. Cataracts form when the otherwise transparent lens of the eye becomes cloudy or entirely opaque as a result of clumped or scattered proteins, obstructing the eye’s vision. Cataracts do not cause any physical discomfort, but they can certainly hinder an individual’s ability to live independently. Different types of cataracts include:

  • Subcapsular cataracts. This particular type of cataract affects the capsule of the eye’s lens. The capsule is the outer layer of the lens, which assists in focusing your vision.
  • Nuclear cataracts. The central area or the lens is called the nucleus. When clouding of the lens is specific to the nucleus, the term “nuclear cataracts” is used.
  • Cortical cataracts. Between the outer capsule and the inner nucleus of the lens is a layer called the cortex. When clouding of the vision stems from the cortex, the condition is called “cortical cataracts.”

PREVENTING CATARACTS

While cataract surgery is a safe, effective, and often permanent solution to cataracts, it’s understandable that many people would prefer to prevent cataracts from forming in the first place in order to avoid a frightening and sometimes expensive operation. The risk of contracting cataracts increases with age, but there are a number of other factors that can contribute to their progression as well.

Making healthy lifestyle choices greatly reduces the risk of cataracts. Steroid abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking have all been linked to the development of cataracts. Studies have also suggested that individuals with diabetes are at greater risk of forming cataracts as well. Therefore, adhering to a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level can help prevent your eyes from forming cataracts. Vitamins E and C as well as carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are all thought to be associated with lower risk of cataracts.

It is also highly recommended that you protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays as much as possible. UV light from the sun may contribute to the development of cataracts, so be sure to wear your sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat outdoors.

Lastly, schedule regular appointments with your optometrist to catch any changes before they become difficult. Contact Silverstein Eye Care Centers today at (816) 358-3600 or request your appointment online. We can serve you at our convenient location in Independence/Kansas City.

Fun Fact: The first documented instance of cataract surgery occurred in the fifth century BC!

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