Along with wrinkles and white hairs, it’s often been said that cataracts are a natural part of human ageing. However, as with wrinkles and white hairs, many people would prefer to avoid cataract surgery and treatment. Is it possible to prevent cataracts or at least delay their development? Keep reading to find out about the prevention of cataract.
Is Prevention of Cataract Possible?
At this point in time, there is no guaranteed method of cataract prevention, and cataract surgery is likely to remain at the top of the list of surgical procedures for a while yet. The exact mechanisms behind cataract formation are still not fully understood, though cataracts are known to be associated with:
- Increasing age
- Both physical and chemical trauma to the eye
- Inflammatory eye diseases
- Systemic metabolic diseases
- As a side effect of certain eye procedures
- As a side effect of various systemic and ocular medications
The majority of cataracts are a natural result of ageing and account for most cataract surgery cases. In light of this, it would be expected that treatment for slowing the ageing process of the eye could conceivably prevent cataracts though this cure has not yet been discovered.
However, research has shown there are a few lifestyle modifications that could help with the prevention of cataracts, although none are a sure-fire method of avoiding cataract surgery forever.
5 Ways to Help Prevent Cataracts
As a general principle, lifestyle choices that are healthy for your whole body will be beneficial for your eyes, too. Here are 5 habits that could promote cataract prevention.
Minimise your UV exposure.
UV radiation has been found to contribute to the development of age-related cataracts, so it stands to reason that wearing a hat and sunglasses while under the sun could help with cataract prevention. Although it’s not likely that you’ll be able to avoid UV exposure completely for your entire life, you may be able to reduce your chances of needing early cataract surgery by following sun-smart practices. In addition to helping prevent cataracts, protecting your eyes from the sun can also reduce your risk of other UV-related eye diseases, such as pterygia, melanomas, and carcinomas.
Protect your eyes from injury.
Ocular trauma can result from various causes, including chemical accidents, blunt or penetrating injuries, and electric shocks. The consequences can range from mild and short-lived discomfort to severe vision loss and reduced quality of life.
Although cataracts from eye injuries are, in most situations, treatable with cataract surgery, these cases are often more complex and at an increased risk of complications during and after the operation. Although there may be some unavoidable instances of eye injury, such as blunt trauma from a cricket ball or a glass laceration to the eye during a motor accident, whenever possible, ensure you are wearing eye protection that meets the local standards when undertaking high-risk activities. This can include activities such as using firearms or working on a construction site.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Research has shown that a diet high in antioxidants has the potential to help prevent cataracts. Antioxidants commonly found in food include vitamins C, A, and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which may combat the oxidative damage to the eye’s lens that results in a cataract developing. You may find these potent antioxidants in fresh fruit and vegetables including capsicum, tomatoes, walnuts, pecans, and kale. There is also some evidence that a healthy intake of omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to the prevention of cataract, so be sure to include cold-water fish such as salmon or tuna in your diet regularly. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts are also good sources of omega-3.
Reduce alcohol consumption.
Although not all studies agree, there is some evidence that heavy alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing age-related cataracts and requiring cataract surgery earlier than those with a lower alcohol intake. Heavy alcohol consumption is defined as more than two standard drinks a day. Interestingly, studies on the association between alcohol and cataracts found that moderate alcohol intake, typically defined as up to one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men, was not associated with a higher risk of cataracts.
Quitting smoking offers benefits to the eye and body far beyond cataract prevention, including reducing your risk of macular degeneration and dry eye disease. In the context of cataracts, smoking cigarettes is known to be directly associated with the development of cataracts and requiring surgery sooner. Studies have also found a positive correlation, meaning that the risk of cataracts forming increases the more cigarettes one smokes per day. Fortunately, your risk of cataract development can be reduced by quitting smoking (or never taking it up in the first place). However, those who quit smoking will retain an elevated risk of cataracts compared to those who have never smoked before.
If the thought of cataracts makes you anxious, be reassured that cataract surgery is considered a highly safe and effective procedure. There are a number of highly competent and experienced cataract surgeons throughout Australia for those who are ready for a cataract operation, so speak to your optometrist about a referral.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Can a healthy diet prevent cataracts?