Commentary by Tammy Wittman
June is Cataract Awareness month. Many people mistakenly think a cataract is a film on your eye. It is actually a clouding of the lens inside your eye. This is something that happens over time in most cases but also can be present at birth. Currently there are 20 million people in the United States with cataracts and is the most common cause of vision loss in people over 40 and the primary cause of blindness in the world.
Symptoms of cataracts may not be obvious when they are beginning. But as they progress you may experience more glare from headlights or lamps. You may see halos around light posts. You may also feel your windshield or glasses are dirty but cleaning them doesn’t help.
There are several things that can contribute to the development of cataracts. Your lens is made of mostly of protein and water. As we age the proteins begin to clump together and form a cloud in the lens. Also, a lifetime exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun causes a yellowing of the lens which is another form of cataract.
There are things we can do to help prevent them. First avoid or protect yourself from the causes of cataracts. Also, some studies have shown that certain nutrients may reduce cataract risk. Those would be antioxidants like Vitamin C and foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin may also be helpful. Foods rich in Vitamin E include almonds, spinach and sunflower seeds. Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, kale and other leafy vegetables.
If you think you may have symptoms of cataracts please have your eyes evaluated by you eye doctor.