Prevent Elderly from Cataracts

At the front of the eye is a lens that is normally clear and transparent. Light easily flows through this lens and what is seen is distinct and sharp. This lens is made up of a combination of protein and water. The protein typically stays in place and keeps the lens clear.

Prevent Elderly from Cataracts

At the front of the eye is a lens that is normally clear and transparent. Light easily flows through this lens and what is seen is distinct and sharp. This lens is made up of a combination of protein and water. The protein typically stays in place and keeps the lens clear.

If you have elderly loved ones, possibilities are that at some point, they will experience cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss and affect about half of people age 45 and older. It is a natural condition that develops over time. This calls to prevent elderly from cataracts. The biggest symptom of cataracts is vision loss that might manifest itself as blurred vision or glare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of U.S.A (CDC) list cataracts as the leading cause of age-related vision loss in the world.

Cataracts are a sort of clouding that develops in the eye’s lens. In the early stages of symptoms, a cataract may cause nearsightedness. As the cataract grows, it may cause blurry images that appear yellowish or brownish. If untreated, cataracts can eventually cause blindness so it is very important to be aware of the signs of cataracts. Schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist for a check-up and monitor any change in vision.

The most common treatment for cataracts is cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is usually a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. Typically, someone is considered a candidate for cataract surgery when his/her vision loss interferes with daily life. Talk to an ophthalmologist to determine if surgery is the right option and how to prevent elderly from cataracts.

What is Cataracts?

At the front of the eye is a lens that is normally clear and transparent. Light easily flows through this lens and what is seen is distinct and sharp. This lens is made up of a combination of protein and water. The protein typically stays in place and keeps the lens clear.

In the elderly, the protein may form clumps and become sticky. These clumps of protein cause cloudy areas in the lens that can be similar to trying to look through a window that has a smear of grease. There can be blurry areas as well as clear areas. Some people will have overall blurry vision. When the lens of the eye is blocked there is less light that will enter the eye, causing blurriness and cloudiness. The protein can also cause a brownish-yellow tint to objects.

Types of cataracts include:

  • A sub-capsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a sub-capsular cataract.
  • A nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone i.e. nucleus of the lens. Nuclear cataracts usually are associated with aging.
  • A cortical cataract is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.

Causes of Cataracts in Elderly

The lens inside the eye works like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. It also adjusts the eye's focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. No one knows why the eye's lens changes as we age, forming cataracts. But researchers have identified some factors that may cause cataracts or are associated with cataract development.

  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Inadequate vitamin intake
  • Excessive exposure to radiations like X-rays and cancer radiation therapy
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
  • Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • High myopia
  • Family history

Symptoms of Cataracts in Elderly

Cataracts start slowly and affect only a small part of the lens at first. Therefore, most people realize much later that cataract is developing. Often, only one eye is involved in the beginning. The ability to see things close up or far away will be affected depending on where the cataract is located. The change may be most obvious at night, or you may notice it more in bright daylight. After months or years, your cataract will grow and cover more of the lens, affecting a greater part of your range of vision. Some common signs and symptoms of cataracts are:

  • Cloudy, blurry, or dim vision
  • Poor night vision or increased difficulty seeing in the dark
  • Sensitivity to light and glare; car headlights, lamps, or sunlight seem too bright
  • A need to change eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions more often
  • Faded or yellowing colors
  • Double vision or multiple images in a single eye. Though, this symptom may disappear as the cataract grows.
  • Rings around lights

Treatment of Cataracts in Elderly

In their earliest stages, cataracts can be treated with environmental changes, including new lenses, better lighting and glare-resistant sunglasses. However, when vision loss begins to interfere with daily functions and the elderly’s independence, cataract surgery is an effective treatment. This involves removing the damaged lens and replacing it with an artificial one.

Cataract surgery is generally considered to be safe. An eye doctor can help you determine whether cataract surgery is the right decision.

How to prevent Elderly from Cataracts?

Cataracts are a condition that commonly occurs in elderly. Though we may not be able to completely prevent elderly from cataracts, there are a few strategies that can be used to keep our eyes healthy.

  • Eat a diet high in fruits and green leafy vegetables. Good nutrition is important for maintaining the health of the eyes. The National Eye Institute states a diet high in antioxidants may slow the development of cataracts. We cannot do anything about age factor or family history, but can certainly change our diet. If one has cataracts, proper diet may slow their growth. Diet which should be followed are citrus fruits (oranges, limes etc.), tomatoes, red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, potatoes etc.

Also, one can include vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower or wheat gram in diet. Nuts like almonds and peanuts are good source of vitamin E. Go for vegetables like spinach.

  • Have eyes checked regularly for cataracts. A doctor can spot problems much earlier. If you are between 40 and 70, you should get a complete eye check up every 2 to 5 years. In a complete check-up, the doctor will dilate the pupils.
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  • A study reports that drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of cataracts. A research has shown that if you drink fewer than two standard-size drinks each day, your odds of getting cataracts may be lower than if you never drank at all. On the other hand, research also shows that drinking more than two drinks a day i.e. about 20 grams of alcohol, raises those odds.
  • Manage chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. If you have diabetes, you know how important it is to keep your blood sugar under control. But you didn’t know that it can also help prevent cataracts. People who have diabetes are more likely to develop the eye condition than people who don’t.

In diabetes, your lens swells if your blood sugar stays too high for too long. Your lens also changes blood sugar into sorbitol. When this substance collects in the lens of your eye, you see less clearly, and a cataract may form.

  • The eyes are vulnerable to damage from the sun. The ultraviolet rays can lead to faster development of cataracts. When out in the sun, make sure to wear a hat with a brim and sunglasses. Sunglasses can make you look cool and can also help reduce the risk of getting cataracts.
  • Smoking limits the amount of oxygen to sensitive areas like the eyes and causes faster vision loss. Smoking creates more free radicals in your eyes. These are chemicals that harm cells. Antioxidants and all those good chemicals that you get from fruits and vegetables, fight the bad chemicals. But smoking kills off the good chemicals. And it produces a lot of toxins that can cause cataracts. Hence, quit smoking.

Health professionals found that higher dietary intakes of vitamin E and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin from food and supplements were associated with significantly decreased risks of cataract. 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.

Another study have shown antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids may reduce cataract risk. An important step you can take to reduce the risk of cataracts is to wear protective sunglasses that block sun's UV rays when outdoors.

Furthermore, if your elderly has a family history of eye problems, he/she may be at increased risk for cataracts. While no method has yet been scientifically proven to prevent cataracts, routine eye exams are an important part of managing the condition and ensuring that elderly receive the care they need.

Ways to help elderly with Cataracts

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Vision loss can make getting around difficult. If you have an elderly with cataracts, here a few things you can do to improve their quality of life:

  • Tasks around the house might become difficult for someone with cataracts. Find out which tasks are most difficult, and offer to help with them. Laundry, taking out the trash, and other homemaking tasks are all things that become more difficult when dealing with cataracts and impaired vision.
  • Falls are a great risk to the elderly. Prevent falls by cleaning up clutter around the house and being aware of potential hazards when out in public such as slippery walkways or uneven surfaces.
  • An elderly may not be able to drive to run errands or visit friends. Help out when you can, and ask other family members and friends to make themselves available as well.
  • Cooking is not only difficult for someone who doesn’t see well, but it’s also dangerous. So you might consider a food delivery service or in-home care.
  • Vision loss can be frightening and cause elderly to feel isolated and lonely. Listen to them.

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Allie Leon, Chief Fun Officer

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