What are Cataracts?
Cataract is a condition in which the clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy, causing a decrease in vision. It’s one of the most common eye diseases in the United States. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have some degree of cataract or have already undergone cataract surgery in one or both eyes. By age 95, this percentage increases to almost 100%.
A cataract can occur in either or both eyes, but it cannot spread from one eye to the other. According to the National Eye Institute, the most common symptoms of a cataract are:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Colors appearing faded
- Glare from bright lights, such as headlights or sunlight, sometimes with a halo
- Poor night vision
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye
- Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses
These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. So, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to check with your eye care professional.
To understand what causes cataracts, you must first know how the eye, and the lens, in particular, works.
The lens of your eye is located behind your iris and pupil. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting you see things clearly both up close and far away.
The lens is made of mostly water and protein. This protein is arranged in a way that keeps the lens clear and allows light pass through it. As you age, some of the protein may start clumping together and cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.
Researchers suspect that there are several causes of cataracts. Smoking and diabetes are two risk factors. In addition, prolonged exposure to sunlight can increase your risk of developing the eye disease. But many eye scientists believe that oxidation from free radicals is responsible for much of the damage to the lenses of your eyes.
To reduce your risk of cataracts, wear sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight. Numerous studies have also found that diets that include healthy amounts of the antioxidants vitamins A, C and E, lutein and zeaxanthin may decrease the risk of cataracts, or help delay the development of the eye disease.
Which foods are highest in these antioxidants? Here are the best foods you can eat for healthy vision.