During a routine eye exam, you could be surprised to learn that you have cataracts. In the beginning stages, cataracts will have little effect on your vision. The eye disease start as tiny protein deposits. You could have the disease for quite a while before you would notice any visual disturbances.
Cataract Signs and Symptoms
When you have a cataract, you may notice subtle changes in your vision before the cataract causes significant problems. Your vision may be slightly blurred, but nothing extreme. There are a few other signs and symptoms that may lead you to suspect a cataract.
- Blurred or double vision
- Sunlight or lamp lights may seem too bright or glaring
- Headlights can cause more glare than before
- Colors may not appear as vibrant
Your Risk of Cataracts
The lens of your eye is made of protein and water. The proteins are precisely arranged to let light pass through and keep your lenses clear. As you age, these proteins can stick together and cloud a small area of your lens. This small cloudy area will grow with time, interfering with your vision. While the disease do progress over time, they are not strictly a result of the aging process. Your risk will increase under certain conditions. The risk factors for cataracts include:
- UV light, which includes sunlight as well as indoor lighting and electronic devices
- High blood pressure
- Corticosteroid medications
- Statins to reduce cholesterol
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Previous eye Injury or eye surgery
- Severe nearsightedness
- Family history of cataracts
Types of Cataracts
While you could learn that you have cataracts in both eyes, they do not necessarily develop at the same time. Cataract classification depends on its location in your eye and how it grew. There are several types of cataracts.
- Subcapsular Cataract — The subcapsular cataract appears at the back of the lens and is typical among people with diabetes or who take high dosages of steroid medications (secondary cataract). Subcapsular cataracts usually form faster than other types.
- Nuclear Cataract — A nuclear cataract forms deep within the lens of your eye in the central zone or nucleus. Most often associated with the aging process, this cataract will typically cause the center of the eye to turn brown or yellow. Interestingly, a nuclear cataract can temporarily improve your vision. This phenomenon, called “second sight ,” will not last long.
- Cortical Cataract — This type of cataract starts around the outer perimeter of the lens and works its way toward the center. Its wedge-like opacities resemble spokes and surround the central zone of your eye.
- Congenital cataracts — Congenital cataracts form during a baby’s first year of life or are present at birth. It vary in severity. Some are quite insignificant while others interfere with visual development. This disease can be inherited or caused by metabolic conditions, infections or drug reactions.
- Secondary Cataracts — Secondary cataracts are those caused by medications or medical conditions. Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone are known to cause cataracts in some people. Some medical diseases, like diabetes or glaucoma, also present a higher risk of the disease. Most secondary cataracts are subcapsular.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Cataracts
You may be able to reduce your likelihood of developing cataracts by wearing sunglasses whenever you are outdoors. You will want lenses that block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays. You may also want to block the UV rays from your electronic devices. Studies are linking screen time to the increased risk of cataracts. The blue light emitted by a cell phone or computer screen is on the same spectrum as sunlight.
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A 10-year study by healthcare professionals found that a diet high in certain vitamins may reduce the risks of developing cataracts. You benefit from including the following foods because of the vitamins and nutrients they contain. Those nutrients include:
- Vitamin E — found in sunflower seeds, spinach, and almonds
- Lutein and zeaxanthin — from spinach, kale and other leafy greens
- Vitamin C — from citrus fruits and a variety of vegetables
Antioxidants will keep your body balanced and healthy and reduce oxidation. People who maintain a healthy diet that include fresh vegetables, fruit, and whole grains are shown to have fewer cataracts. You may also want to incorporate foods high in essential fatty acids. Omega three fatty acids from fish sources can also reduce your risk of cataracts or slow their progression.
If you notice double or blurred vision, if standard lighting appears too bright, or if you detect any other changes to your vision, you may want to schedule a visit for an eye exam. Your eye care professional is your best source of information about the health of your eyes and the health of your vision.