A cataract is a painless degenerative cloudiness of the lens of the eye. It is easily treated in the industrialised west, but cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in undeveloped countries. The lens, located just behind the pupil, should be clear and flexible. After we reach the age of 45 years or so, proteins start to cloud the lens, and the lens itself becomes less flexible. 20/20 vision is a thing of the past. By 60 years most people have cloudy vision and it is the rare bird that does not have a cataract by age 80.
- Double vision.
- Seeing a coloured halo around lights.
- Becoming sensitive to glare.
- Poor night vision.
- Loss of colour intensity.
- Eye glass prescriptions need changing more frequently.
What causes it?
The jury is still out on the absolute cause of cataracts, certainly there appears to be oxidative damage, same as behind many of the ageing symptoms. Below is a list of factors that hasten the progression of cataracts. – Getting long in the tooth. – Diabetes. – Smoking. – Strong sunlight and radiation. Pilots have a greater risk of cataracts. – Cortisone medication. – Injury or inflammation to the eye.
What to do?
Once cataracts have formed and are affecting your quality of life, such as no longer being able to read or drive, then it’s time for a cataract operation. The relatively painless procedure takes a little over 10 minutes, where the faulty lens is replaced by an artificial, clear plastic version. Good as new. Natural therapies cannot replace the lens, but can go far in reducing the pace of progression of the condition.
- Control blood sugars. There is a connection with high blood sugar and the formation of cataracts. Avoid added sugar in your diet and eat low glycaemic carbohydrates.
- Antioxidant nutrients found in food reduce free radical damage and oxidation of tissue. Fruits and vegetables that are multi hued have the largest percentage of antioxidants. Including – blueberries, turmeric, carrots,
- vbTrans fatty acids increase oxidative damage. Avoid deep fried foods, margarine and packaged biscuits, pastries and cakes.
- Drink more fluids, especially water, the lens is made up of water and protein.
- Eat more fruit and vegies. This time-honoured piece of advice from grannies around the world proves right yet again. The following nutrients have been found to reduce the prevalence of cataracts: vitamin E, selenium, betacarotene, lycopene, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthon, and guess what? They are found in vegetables and fruit.
- Lutein – dark green leafy vegetables, Asian greens, kale, spinach; sweet corn, egg yolk.
- Zeaxanthin – sweet corn, egg yolk, mandarins, tangerines, oranges, persimmons, orange capsicum.
- Vitamin E – cold pressed vegetable oils especially wheatgerm oil, nuts, seeds, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, egg yolk, liver, soya beans, butter, asparagus.
- Selenium – wheatgerm, meat, fish, seafood, Brazil nuts, garlic, brewer’s yeast.
- Betacarotene – Carrots, rockmelon, broccoli, spinach and the marine algae Dunaliella salina.
- Lycopene – Tomatoes and processed tomato products such as tomato sauce, dried tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, papaya, guava.
- Vitamin C – berries, especially blackcurrants, chillies, capsicums, oranges, papaya, citrus fruits, mango, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomato.
- Herbally, a combination of bilberry and ginkgo biloba are a marriage made in heaven for cataract prevention. Bilberry is high in carotenoids beloved by eyes, and both herbs are excellent at improving micro-circulation, improving blood flow to hard to reach places in the body, like the eyes.
- Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and improves circulation. No more than 500 iu daily.
- A build-up of a sugar like substance, sorbitol, is thought to be behind the development of cataracts, particularly those in diabetics. The bioflavonoid quercetin helps to break sorbitol down into harmless compounds.
- Take an antioxidant supplement that contains vitamin E, selenium, vitamin C and betacarotene.
- Cataract surgery today is a common procedure and is generally very safe and effective. If you need it, you need it.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to reduce glare and wear good quality sunglasses that cut out UVA and UVB sunlight.
- Give up cigarettes. There is a very strong link between smoking (and the free radicals it generates) and cataract formation.
- The eyes are how we view our lives and future, metaphorically is there some fear about looking forward or into your future?
At a glance
- Drink more water.
- Increase fruit and vegetables. Here are some to get you started: berries, citrus, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, capsicum and sweet corn.
- The herbs Bilberry and ginkgo biloba help circulation and are antioxidant rich.
- Take an antioxidant containing vitamin E, vitamin C and betacarotene. If it also contains selenium, all the better.
- Protect your eyes from harsh sunlight and glare, wear good quality sunnies and a hat.
- If your quality of life is becoming compromised, put yourself on a list for cataract surgery.
- Is the future scary to look at?