By the age of 75, half of White Americans have cataracts, which is a progressive eye disease that increasingly robs you of your clear vision. While age plays no small role in the development of cataracts, as well as race, there are risk factors that are well within your power to control to prevent or slow this common eye disease.
At Suburban Eye Associates, our team of ophthalmologists and eye surgeons routinely helps patients see more clearly through cataract surgery, but we also appreciate the importance of prevention.
With that in mind, here are a few tips that may delay or slow cataracts.
Cataract risk factors outside of your control
Before we get into prevention tips, it’s important to understand the forces over which you have no control, starting with age. Cataracts develop as you get older — they typically start to form after the age of 40 and, with each decade, become more prevalent.
As we mentioned, by the time White Americans reach the age of 75, about half will have some degree of cataracts and this number jumps to 70% by the age of 80. Currently, nearly 24.5 million people in the US have cataracts, but this number is expected to jump to about 50 million by 2050 thanks to an aging population.
The reason why we qualify these numbers by race is that this characteristic greatly influences your risk for cataracts — White people are far more prone to this eye disease. To illustrate this, of those who have cataracts, 80% are White, 8% are Black, and 7% are Hispanic.
Finally, gender also plays a role — 61% of those with cataracts are women and 39% are men.
Cataract risk factors within your control
Now that we better understand those risk factors for cataracts that are well outside your ability to control, let’s take a look at some of those that you can influence.
There are almost innumerable reasons why smoking is bad for you as it affects almost every area of your health, including your eye health. People who smoke are 2-3 times more likely to develop cataracts. If you smoke, why not add your vision to the long list of reasons why you should quit?
Another way that you can help your eyes remain healthy is to ensure that you’re eating foods with plenty of antioxidants, which means fruits and vegetables. A great rule of thumb here is to choose fruits and vegetables that are rich in color, such as berries and dark, leafy greens.
Not protecting your eyes against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can also accelerate cataracts, which is why we advise that you wear sunglasses that shield your eyes from UVB rays.
Staying one step ahead of cataracts
While mitigating the risk factors that we mention above is helpful, it’s also imperative that you keep up with regular eye care so that we can monitor for the early signs of cataracts. If we spot a problem, we can ramp up your prevention efforts to slow the progression of this eye disease.
If, despite your best efforts, you still develop cataracts, the good news is that we offer cataract surgery, a procedure in which we replace your cloudy lenses with artificial intraocular lenses. We perform this procedure on an outpatient basis and it has an extremely high success rate for restoring clear vision.
If you’d like to learn more about cataracts or to set up an eye exam to check for this disease, please contact one of our offices in Huntingdon Valley, Jenkintown, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to get started.