symptoms, diet, nutrition, self-help & research
Cataracts are the major cause of vision loss in the United States. Symptoms can include blurry, hazy vision that worsens over time as well as sensitivity to glare. Research has shown specific lifestyle, diet and supplement choices can support overall lens health.
Self Help & Tips
- Learn about maintaining lens health
- Eye health support general recommendations. Diet is important. A 2011 study1 compared diets of nearly 28,000 people, and found that those who ate the most meat had the highest incidence of lens problems. This doesn't mean to stop eating meat, but it does demonstrate that a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables is helpful in reducing risk.
- Daily juicing of fruits and vegetables (organic is best). Our lens support recipe includes some combination of: spinach, carrots, celery, radish, watermelon, and raspberries (not too much fruit). See see more info on juicing.
- Supplement your diet with a good multivitamin.
As always, prevention is the best medicine. Using complementary medicine to try to address the underlying cause, along with traditional medicine to try to prevent damage on an acute basis, is the best approach to preserving vision both short and long-term.
Many eye conditions are a reflection of the well-being of the whole physiology so lifestyle changes, in addition to supplementation and nutrition, can make a big difference in vision health.
A cataract appears as an opaque spot on the lens of the eye that obstructs vision. It may seem as though you are looking through a hazy cloud. The density of the cataract typically increases over time so the effect on your vision will vary depending the cataract density and the location of the cataract on the lens. Many people first experience a general bluriness of vision requiring more light to read by, and/or more difficulty reading street signs. Depth perception can often be affected resulting in an added risk of falling for seniors.
- Blurry or hazy vision, especially in bright light
- Poor night vision
- Cloudiness on the eye lens
- Needing more light for reading
- Reading is fatiguing
- Difficulty in dept perception
- Seeing halos, particularly in sunlight
- Glasses always seem dirty
- Free radicals which are natural metabolism by-products. These chemicals cause oxidation, in turn causing aging. As the eye lens ages, it gets harder and loses its focusing ability.
- Chronic stress - physical due to injury to the back or neck, continuing dental pain, or stress that limits movement of the head (and eyes) and increases tension and tightness in muscles.
- Food sensitivities or allergies, especially of wheat or soy, and dairy products which might cause congestion and impair veinous and lymphatic drainage. This restricts nutrients from reaching the eyes.
- Toxins and side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, such as steroids and photosensitizers like medications for high cholesterol, gout diuretics and antibiotics.
- Smoking: Smokers have a 50% higher risk of cataracts. Each time you smoke a cigarette you rob the body of vitamin C (25mg). Smokers have more fat and cholesterol in their systems increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because blood vessels are narrowed, blood vessels in the eye are also narrowed and so the retina other parts of the eye don't receive all the nutrients they need.
- Diseases such as diabetes that affect multiple parts of the body resulting in increased risk of arthritis, hypertension, and heart disease. Diabetics form cataracts when they are younger than people who don't have diabetes.
- Poor digestion and nutrition: nutritional deficiencies contribute to earlier and faster-developing cataracts. People with incomplete digestion and ongoing bowel and elimination problems have a four times as many cases.
- Heredity and advanced age by themselves are risk factors.
- Sunlight includes invisible UV light that accelerates damage to the lens by free radicals. These effects are cumulative (again, aging ...).
- Alcohol: More than one drink a day doubles the risk.
- High BMI: The World Health organization reports that high body mass index is an indicator of high cataract risk.
These drugs can cause or worsen cataracts: (also see "Drugs That Harm the Eyes" for a more complete list of harmful drugs:)
These drugs which make you more light-sensitive to sunlight cause chemical changes to tissue which, in turn, can make you more vulnerable. Among the more common photosensitizing drugs:
- Birth control pills
- Sulfa drugs
- Tranquilizers and antidepressants
- Oral anti-diabetic drugs
- Glucocorticoids (Prednisone) Cataracts will form in half of the people who take doses of 10-15 milligrams prednisone daily over 1-2 years.
- NSAIDS (for example ibuprofen, advil, meclofen).
- Steroids Cataracts caused by steroids are dense and can cause rapid vision loss. They will not go away when medication is stopped and have to be removed surgically. If you must take steroids, be sure to get plenty of antioxidants such as lutein, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin E, and vitamin C for prevention.
- Etretinate, isotretinoin
Conventional Cataract Treatment
Surgery is commonly performed to remove cataracts. There are three types of intervention:
- Extracapsular surgery: the front half of the outer covering of the lens is removed.
- Phacoemulsification: the lens core is broken up with ultrasound and then removed.
- Intracapsular: the entire lens and its capsule are removed.
Usually the natural lens is replaced which an artificial, plastic lens. It is a permanent implant.
Recovery from surgery typically takes a day or so, but adjustment to the new lens can take weeks to months for some people. Ointment or eye drops are recommended after surgery to reduce inflammation, prevent infection and help healing. Surgery may some some people increase the risk of later on for retinal tears or detachments.
Studies and Information
1. Diet, vegetarianism, and cataract risk., Paul N Appleby, Naomi E Allen, and Timothy J Key, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2011.
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