Maintaining healthy eyes is crucial to independent and productive living, but cataracts can impede that. Left untreated, cataracts can lead to blurriness and eventually, a total loss of vision.
When people hear “cataracts” they tend to think of older adults in retirement, but small protein clumps and cataract spots in vision can form as early as your 40s. Risk factors that play into cataract development include hereditary history of cataracts, diseases (such as diabetes), and environmental (smoking, constant ultraviolet light exposure).
Only one-sixth of our eyes are exposed through the eyelid, but that organ is one of the most complex structures in the body, second only to the brain. Our eyes are also extremely susceptible to damage — especially at an early age, when roughly 80 percent of ultraviolet (UV) light exposure takes place before the age of 18, when our eyes are still developing.
Some early cataract symptoms include blurry or cloudy vision, loss of color identification, increased poor night vision, and light sensitivity changes or halos around light glare.
Not all cataracts are the same, and about 80 percent of vision problems are preventable or treatable. For patients who experience decreased vision that affects their daily lives, cataract surgery removal is a common operation option in the United States.
How you can prevent cataracts:
- Eat healthy and exercise. Your eyes need nutrients, and the more you deprive your eyes of their essentials, the harder it will be for them to recover from the everyday and harsh environmental bombardments, such as UV exposure.
- Wear polarized sunglasses equipped with UV protection whenever you go outside. This is especially important for anyone engaging in winter activities, when the sun’s glare off snowfall can cause snow blindness (photokeratitis) if your eyes aren’t properly protected. Cloudy days present their own challenges, too, since cloud cover does not diminish UV exposure.
- Visit your eye doctor. Regular checkups are about more than that annual eye dilation that you love so much. Diligent maintenance and precaution may even save your eyesight. As with any medical concern, tell your doctor right away if you begin experiencing cataract symptoms.