What are cataracts and how do I prevent them?

Checking for cataracts

Understanding what causes cataracts and the signs and symptoms associated with them are necessary to maintaining eye health. This guide will review everything you need to know about cataracts, including how to prevent them!


Understanding Cataracts

A cataract is a medical term for the clouding of the lens in your eye. Normally this lens is clear, but when a cataract develops, it will start to look fogged up or frosty. This can lead to difficulties seeing, reading, driving, or worse - depending on the severity.

Generally, cataracts develop as we age or if there is a specific injury to the tissue in your eye. However, some genetic disorders can increase your risk of developing cataracts.

Similarly, long-term use of steroids, a history of eye surgeries, and diabetes are also known to cause cataracts to form.

Cataracts form on your lens, which sits right behind your iris. The iris is the colored part of the eye, and the lens works to focus the light as it passes through. As it gets larger, the cataract will cover more and more of the lens – until it blocks out light and prevents a clear image from reaching your retina.

This is what causes blurred and unclear vision, and since it happens slowly, it worsens over time.

Signs and Symptoms

Cataracts do not develop overnight, so they will not disturb your vision as they begin to progress. Eventually, though, they will start to interfere with your eyesight and cause some of the other following issues:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Trouble seeing at nighttime
  • The appearance of ‘halos’ around bright lights
  • Difficulty reading without a bright light
  • Dimmed, blurry, or cloudy vision
  • Double vision
  • Frequently changing contact or glasses prescriptions

You may not realize you are experiencing symptoms like blurred eyesight or cloudiness right away since a cataract starts on a small part of your eye. Once it gets larger, though, your symptoms will become more noticeable.

This is why it is so important to go to the eye doctor regularly. They have the imaging capabilities to catch them early on.

How Do You Prevent Cataracts?

Here are some ways you can detect, or in some cases, prevent cataracts: getting eye examinations, managing health conditions, improving your diet, and wearing sunglasses.

Eye Examinations

Like we mentioned, the best way to identify that you have a cataract – is to have regular eye examinations.

Your eye doctor can detect them and other eye issues at early stages, so work with them to develop a schedule that best suits your health needs.

Manage Health Conditions

A way to reduce your risk of getting cataracts is to manage any health conditions that you have. For instance, if you have diabetes or another condition that puts you at risk of cataracts, do your best to manage them and prevent them from worsening.

Improve Your Diet

Improving your diet can also help you prevent cataracts. Eating colorful fruits and vegetables allows you to get the vitamins and nutrients you need to keep your eyes healthy. They are also full of antioxidants, which can also improve your eye health.

More research is needed to see if antioxidants in pill form are as effective, but it is clear that eating a balanced diet enhances your overall health.  

Likewise, quitting smoking – and reducing your intake of alcohol – will also reduce your risk of developing cataracts.

Wear Sunglasses

Wearing sunglasses can help minimize the effects of UV rays from the sun. UV rays may contribute to the development of cataracts, so make sure that you always wear sunglasses that block out those harmful UV rays!