Q. My parents and grandparents suffered from cataracts. Is there anything I can do to prevent them?
A. There is a lot you can do to prevent cataracts. Although they can develop anytime, they are most commonly associated with aging.
Cataracts can cause decreased vision and blindness if not treated. They occur when the transparent lens of your eye becomes cloudy because of damage from free radicals.
You are exposed to free radicals from sunlight — especially in Hawai’i, where the sun is so close to the earth.
Your risk of developing cataracts is increased if you are diabetic, obese, a smoker, consume excessive amounts of alcohol, take prescription drugs such as steroids, or drugs that make you more sensitive to light — for example, gout medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, diuretics and some antibiotics. Another risk factor for cataracts is chronic inflammation — such as in arthritis — which causes increased potential for free radical damage.
Signs that a cataract may be developing include blurred vision, fatigue when reading, or difficulty threading a needle; you may also see a glare — especially at night — and halos around lights. If you have these symptoms, see your eye-care specialist.
When it comes to cataracts, prevention is the best cure. However, if you have cataracts there are many steps you can take to treat them. Studies show that antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, can help quench free radicals responsible for cataract formation.
Robert Abel, M.D., author of “The Eye Care Revolution,” recommends you treat and prevent cataracts with a daily dose of 10,000 international units (i.u.) of vitamin A, 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C, and 400 to 800 i.u. of vitamin E. He also recommends increasing your level of glutathione, another potent antioxidant, which is extremely effective at preventing cataract formation.
Glutathione taken orally is poorly assimilated, so it is suggested that you take supplements such as alpha lipoic acid that indirectly increase the glutathione level in your body. Foods that boost your glutathione level include those high in cysteine and other sulphur-bearing amino acids such as eggs, beans, garlic, onions, asparagus and avocados. Healthy fats, like those found in fish, flax and walnut oils, also are important to eye health.
A whole-body approach is vital to preventing and treating cataracts. A healthy diet, environment and lifestyle are all essential to healthy eyes.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com