Cataracts are a very common eye disorder that many associate with advanced age. While cataracts are most common in elderly individuals, there are a variety of other risk factors to keep in mind when talking about cataracts.
Being Over the Age of 40
In this day and age, forty years old is hardly what anyone would consider “elderly.” However, individuals as young as 40 are at an increased risk for developing cataracts. As the body ages, the chemistry of the eye changes and over time this can cause the lens to become cloudy. It’s a normal side effect of the aging process.
Those with diabetes struggle with keeping their blood sugar levels normal as their body is unable to control glucose levels. An excess of glucose effects blood vessels all around the body— including the eye. This can change the shape of the eye itself and it is not uncommon for those with diabetes to develop cataracts. Diabetes can also lead to other eye disorders such as diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, or even blindness.
Smoking causes a wide variety of health issues, but most probably don’t think of the effect it has on vision. Smoking can alter the cells in the eye through oxidation. When the cells in the lens change, they can cause clouding, thus forming a cataract.
Alcohol can cause a lot of damage to your body if consumed regularly over a sustained period. Not all of this damage is focused on the liver — heavy drinking can also cause cataracts. Excessive drinking can have a similar effect on the eye as aging does, breaking down the proteins in the lens and causing it to cloud.
Obesity can cause cardiovascular issues, which have been linked to cataracts. Just like with diabetes, cardiovascular disease can cause damage to blood vessels in the eye, which can lead to vision problems.
Not Wearing UV-Resistant Eye Protection
Direct exposure to sunlight can be harmful in more than one way. UV, or ultraviolet light, is well known to cause skin cancer in excessive amounts. But it also can cause damage to the eye. This isn’t limited to cataracts, as studies have found that UV light can cause oxidation in the eye. This oxidation (also seen in smokers) can change the cellular structure of the lens and cause it to cloud, forming a cataract. For people who don’t wear sunglasses when it’s sunny outside, overexposure to UV light can be just as harmful to the eyes as it is to the skin.
Cataracts also can be the result of genetics. If your parents have cataracts, you are more likely to have them as well.
With all these different risk factors, it’s hardly a surprise that cataracts are so common — but they are also very treatable. The most effective treatment for you may be cataract surgery. If you think you are at risk or may have a cataract, schedule an appointment with Associates in Ophthalmology to discuss what options are available to you.