Cataracts are the primary cause of blindness around the world, and affect more than twenty million Americans- but what causes cataracts? While aging is a major factor in the development of cataracts, there are other factors as well. Fortunately, there are also solutions.
- Twenty two million Americans over age forty suffer from cataracts. As the population of the United States ages, it is estimated that cataracts will affect over thirty million people in the country by 2020. It is not clear why cataracts form as people age, but the type of most commonly associated with aging is the nuclear cataract. These form deep in the central zone, or nucleus, of the lens.
- Cataracts occur when the protein in the lens of the eye begins to become less organized. The lens is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and allows light to pass through it.
- Exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause cataracts. For this reason, it is very important to limit the eye’s sun exposure, by using sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat.
- Other forms of radiation may play a role in cataract formation as well. Some studies have shown that pilots and astronauts are at higher risk of cataracts because of cosmic radiation. Lead exposure may also be a risk.
- Diabetes may up a person’s risk of cataracts. Obesity and high blood pressure may be factors as well. People with diabetes are at risk of subcapsular cataracts- those that form at the back of the lens.
- Certain medications may affect cataract formation as well. These include steroids, tranquilizers, and diuretics, but there is some question as to whether cataracts are caused by the medications themselves, or are connected to the conditions they treat.
- Lifestyle choices can impact your cataract risk. Too much salt has been shown to cause cataracts, as can heavy alcohol consumption. Cigarette smoking and air pollution can also be causative factors.
- There is evidence to suggest that eating a diet high in antioxidants can forestall the development of cataracts. Many studies have shown that a diet high in nutrients such as beta-carotene, selenium and vitamins C and E can help prevent the formation of cataracts.
Knowing what causes cataracts can help people modify their lifestyles in order to prevent their development. While heredity plays a factor, and cataracts are sometimes unavoidable, there are things to be done to decrease their likelihood. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthily, and avoiding cigarettes and heavy alcohol consumption can help. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors, particularly if you are prescribed a new medication. If you do not already have an eye doctor, check out Tylock-George Eye Care and Laser Center. Committed to providing the highest level of care, Tylock has been offering the most advanced technology to their patients for over twenty years.