The world's leading cause of blindness, cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes clouded. Responsible for letting light rays to pass onto the retina, the lens is a transparent structure mostly made up of water and protein fibers. When those fibers clump together, the lens loses its clarity, leading to blurred vision and—if left untreated—complete blindness.
Cataract Causes and Symptoms
In most cases, lens fibers clump together due to aging-related deterioration. However, cataracts can also develop in younger individuals due to eye injuries, eye diseases, or inflammation.
Cataract symptoms include:
- blurred or dim vision
- loss of distance vision
- sensitivity to light
- frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- difficulty with night vision
- tendency to see a halo or glare around lights
- double vision in one eye
- loss of depth perception
It's important to note that cataracts tend to develop slowly and cause no pain. Since early detection is key to keeping cataracts in check, people over age 65 should get their eyes examined at least once every other year.
How to Prevent Cataracts
Reducing your exposure to ultraviolet light, abstaining from cigarette-smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption may all help protect against cataract development. Here are three other possible ways to reduce your cataract risk naturally:
1) Fill Up on Antioxidants
In a 2008 study of 35,551 women, researchers found that those who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants found in yellow or dark-green leafy vegetables) had an 18% lower chance of developing cataracts than those who consumed the least amount of lutein and zeaxanthin.
In addition to helping absorb harmful ultraviolet light, antioxidants may help stop damaged lens-fiber proteins from clumping together and causing cataracts.
2) Get Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Known to fight inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids may help shield your eyes from cataract development, according to a 2005 study. Looking at data on 71,083 women, the study's authors discovered that those with a higher intake of omega-3s (found in oily fish like salmon and sardines, as well as in flaxseed) had a reduced risk of cataracts.
3) Consider Herbal Medicine
Animal-based research has shown that bilberry (an herb rich in antioxidants) and turmeric (an anti-inflammatory compound found in the curry spice turmeric) may help thwart the development of cataracts.
Learn more about using herbal medicine safely.
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Lu M, Cho E, Taylor A, Hankinson SE, Willett WC, Jacques PF. "Prospective study of dietary fat and risk of cataract extraction among US women." American Journal of Epidemiology 2005 15;161(10):948-59.
Suryanarayana P, Saraswat M, Mrudula T, Krishna TP, Krishnaswamy K, Reddy GB. " Curcumin and turmeric delay streptozotocin-induced diabetic cataract in rats." Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science 2005 46(6):2092-9.