June marks not only the start of summer but also National Cataract Awareness Month, a time where we recognize the danger of cataracts as well as the preventative measures people can take to protect their vision. A cataract is a progressive clouding of the eye that is often painless, but when left untreated, can eventually lead to blindness. While cataracts are common in older people – half of U.S. adults between 75 and 85 years old have lost some vision due to a cataract – there isn’t a specific time or age where cataracts can begin forming. Some people can start developing cataracts as early as 40 because of eye trauma, diabetes, corticoid medications, radiation treatments or other reasons.
If you’re unsure whether you have a cataract, common symptoms can include: A decrease in the clarity of vision, seeing colors that are faded or washed out, sensitivity to light and frequent changes to eyeglass prescriptions. Monitoring your eyesight for any of these changes is a good first step, but the only true way to diagnose a cataract is through a non-invasive, dilated eye exam from an eye care professional.
Although there is no definitive way to prevent a cataract from forming, there are lifestyle changes you can make to better protect your eyes and vision and decrease your risk, including:
- Wearing sunglasses: There is evidence that protecting your eyes from ultraviolet rays may prevent or slow down the progression of cataracts.
- Quitting smoking: Smoking increases the risk of cataracts, as well as other eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
- Having routine eye exams: Consistent eye care can diagnose cataracts and other eye problems at their earliest stages.
- Eating healthy: Adding fruits, vegetables and fish that are high in vitamins and nutrients can help to slow the growth or progression of cataracts. For example, including foods high in antioxidants like vitamins C and E into your diet have been found to help in cataract prevention.
- Managing other chronic conditions: Chronic conditions, especially diabetes, can increase the risk of cataracts by causing the eye lens to swell from rising sugar levels in the blood. Participating in regular exercise, taking prescriptions for conditions and other preventative measures can help manage cataracts and eye health too.
Because harmful UV rays will be at their strongest in the coming weeks, now is the perfect time for health plans to educate their members on the changes they can make to their routines to not only benefit their eye health but also preserve their lifestyle and save substantial medical costs down the road.
© 2021 Versant Health Holdco.