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By Sue Slama, Director of Nursing, Saint Simeon’s

Just what exactly are cataracts, and what can be done to prevent them? A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. A cataract can occur in either or both eyes.

Signs and symptoms of cataracts may include some of the following: dimmed, cloudy or blurred vision, fading or yellowing of colors, halos around objects, difficulty with night vision, frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions, sensitivity to light and glare, and double vision in a single eye.

The following factors may increase the likelihood for cataract development:

  • Increasing age
  • Diabetes
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as that used in X-rays and cancer radiation therapy
  • Family history of cataracts
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Previous eye injury, inflammation, or surgeries
  • Prolonged use of steroid medications

Most authorities believe that the following preventive measures help delay and sometimes prevent the development of cataracts:

  • Have regular eye examinations. Eye examinations can help detect cataracts and other eye problems at their earliest stages. If you are over the age of 60, a regular exam is recommended once every two years.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Reduce alcohol use. Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of cataracts.
  • Wear sunglasses. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays when you're outdoors.
  • Wear a hat to shade your eyes.
  • Manage other health problems. Follow your treatment plan if you have diabetes or other medical conditions that can increase your risk of cataracts, including obesity.
  • Choose a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Adding a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to your diet ensures that you're getting many vitamins and nutrients. Fruits and vegetables have many antioxidants, which help maintain the health of your eyes.

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