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Cataracts: The most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40

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October 30, 2013

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Cataracts: The most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40

Dr. Dawn Stratton
KyForward columnist

Do you know the most common cause of vision loss in people over 40? This condition is also the principal cause of blindness. Glaucoma? No. It’s cataracts.

Prevent Blindness America reports there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined. In fact, cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans age 40 and older.

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. As we age, some of the protein in the lens may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens.

In addition to advancing age, cataract risk factors include:

• Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources
• Diabetes
• Hypertension
• Obesity
• Smoking
• Previous eye injury, eye surgery or inflammation
• Significant alcohol consumption
• Family history

You can reduce your risk of developing cataracts by wearing protective sunglasses that block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays when you are outdoors. Certain nutrients and nutritional supplements may also reduce your risk.

One study of female health professionals found that higher dietary intake of vitamin E and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with significantly decreased risks of cataracts. Good food sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds and spinach. Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, kale and other green, leafy vegetables.

If cataract symptoms begin to appear, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, strong bifocals, magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids. When your cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and affect your daily life, talk to your eye doctor. Cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision. 

Dr. Dawn Stratton, O.D.

Dr. Dawn Stratton, O.D., is the founder of Stratton Eyes. She is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago and earned her Doctor of Optometry in 1994. Based in Lexington, Dr. Stratton is a member of American Optometric Association, the Kentucky Optometric Association, the National Association of Professional Women and the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists. She also provides eye exams for patients at the Hope Center, Room at the Inn and The Nest.

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