Many factors increase a person’s chances of developing cataracts. Although there is little research proving cataract prevention, doctors suspect several strategies may help.
A cataract is a cloudy area that develops in the clear part of the eye that helps with focusing light, known as the lens. It can cause a person’s vision to become blurry, less colorful, or hazy.
Cataracts are common as people age. At around age 40 years, the proteins in the lens begin to break down and may clump together, causing a cloudy area on the lens. More than
Surgery is the only way to get rid of cataracts. However, not all people need surgery immediately. Waiting for surgery does not cause lasting damage to the eyes or cause complications during the procedure.
This article examines whether people can prevent cataracts. It also discusses the particular prevention methods and how they may help.
There is no scientific evidence to support ways to prevent cataracts. Age and genetics can heavily influence their development, which a person cannot change.
However, some factors that can raise the risk of cataracts are ones that people can change. People can follow dietary and lifestyle strategies to reduce these risk factors and their likelihood of the condition.
Modifiable factors influencing the risk of cataracts may include:
- alcohol use
- sun exposure
Oxidative stress is a possible factor in the development of cataracts. In
However, clinical studies that compare antioxidant vitamin supplements with no supplement or a placebo have not detected any effect on the occurrence or progression of cataracts.
A 2019 literature review found that experts generally agree that a nutritious, balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins C, E, and A and multivitamin and mineral supplements may protect against cataracts.
The review notes that the dietary intake of those vitamins is more effective than supplements.
Researchers need to conduct more studies over extended periods with particular combinations of antioxidants to determine whether antioxidants are helpful for cataract prevention.
Smoking cigarettes can damage the parts of the eyes essential for maintaining clear eyesight and vision.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), people who smoke cigarettes are around
People can help
Several studies have investigated the link between alcohol consumption and cataracts but have had
Some studies have found an increase in the risk of cataracts with heavy drinking compared with no alcohol consumption.
Moderate consumption vs. frequency
A large 2021 study found that low to moderate alcohol consumption may lower the risk of cataract surgery.
In particular, study participants who consumed wine five or more times each week were 14–23% less likely than non-drinkers to undergo cataract surgery. Participants drinking similar amounts of beer, cider, or spirits had no significantly reduced risk.
However, compared to participants consuming alcohol once or twice weekly, people drinking daily alcoholic beverages had a 6% higher risk of cataract surgery.
These findings suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may lower the risk of cataracts, but a high frequency of alcohol intake may increase a person’s risk.
Researchers note there is a need for more research before they can draw firm conclusions from their findings.
According to the
However, the CDC states that drinking alcohol even within the recommended limits may increase the risk of death from several causes, including many cancer types and some forms of cardiovascular disease.
Just as ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can cause skin damage, it can also damage the eyes.
UV light penetrates eye tissues more easily than visible light. According to the
Wearing sunglasses and a hat is the most effective way to protect the eyes from UV rays. Wearing a hat with a broad, dark rim helps shade the eyes and reduce glare.
Sunglasses work by reflecting or blocking UV light from the eyes. For complete protection, a person can consider wraparound sunglasses to prevent UV rays from reaching the eye. They can also look for lenses with
In the early stages of a cataract, a person
Regular eye exams with an eye doctor can help keep the eyes healthy. They can evaluate a person’s risk of eye diseases, recognize eye diseases early, help them take steps to protect sight, and guide healthy lifestyle choices.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends a complete eye examination at age 40. The AAO states this is the age when early signs of disease or vision changes may arise.
For people without symptoms and at low risk for eye disease, the AAO recommends the following frequency for eye exams:
- ages 40–54 every 2–4 years
- ages 55–64 every 1–3 years
- ages 65 years old or older every 1–2 years
Some people may require more regular eye checkups if they have a higher risk of certain eye conditions, even if they do not have symptoms.
People cannot prevent cataracts entirely. This is because age and genetics play a significant role in their development, which a person cannot change.
However, people can modify their risk of cataracts by avoiding some other risk factors that may contribute to their development.
People may lower their risk of cataracts by eating a nutritious, balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol.
People can also ensure they get regular eye exams, particularly after age 40, as this is the age people start to experience vision changes and early signs of eye disease.