Cataracts are a progressive eye disease that causes the clear lens of the eye to be clouded over with clumps of protein. As proteins build up, vision is compromised. Advanced cataracts make it appear as though a person is looking through a foggy window. Without treatment, cataracts can lead to total vision loss.
It is easiest to manage cataracts when they are diagnosed in their early stages. However, cataracts do not always present symptoms early on, so individuals may not seek appropriate treatment. Dr. Raul Peña advises his Harlingen, TX, patients on the risk factors for cataracts and eye care information including the best eye care practices when they have a high probability of developing cataracts.
Aging is the greatest risk factor for cataracts. Although cataracts can develop at any time in a person’s life, they are far more common as a person ages. Cataracts usually start to develop between the ages of 40 and 50 and are especially likely after 60. It is estimated that around one in five adults over the age of 65 (20 percent) have cataracts.
Family History of Cataracts
Individuals with a family history of cataracts are more likely to develop the condition themselves. The risk of cataracts is greater among those with family members who developed cataracts at an early age.
Diabetes has been linked to several eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. Cataracts are a greater risk among diabetics who fail to control their blood sugar levels. When blood sugars are controlled through diet, exercise, or medication, the risk of cataracts should be no greater than the risk among non-diabetics.
Excessive Sun Exposure
Excessive sun exposure is known to increase the risk of cataracts. Excessive sun exposure is not just a long day in the sun. Rather, we are referring to years of prolonged exposure to UV rays. People who spend a lot of time outdoors for work or recreation without wearing UV-protecting sunglasses are more likely to develop cataracts.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases a person’s intraocular pressure. When pressure builds up in the eye, it can damage the blood vessels in the retina and cause a faster accumulation of glucose within the eye’s lens, which is believed to increase the risk of cataracts. As with diabetes, the link between high blood pressure and cataracts is only significant when blood pressure is not controlled through diet, exercise, or medication.
Past Eye Injury
A past eye injury, inflammation, or a previous eye surgery puts our Harlingen patients at greater risk of developing cataracts. We refer to these types of cataracts as “traumatic” cataracts, although they don’t always develop immediately. Cataracts may develop days or years after an eye is injured.
What Should I Do if I’m at Risk for Cataracts?
There is not anything our Harlingen patients can do to prevent cataracts. However, good eye care practices may minimize the risk and allow cataracts to be diagnosed early on when they are easily manageable. If you are concerned about your risk of cataracts, we offer these suggestions:
- Discuss your cataract risk factor with an eye doctor
- Schedule comprehensive eye exams regularly
- Refrain from smoking and minimize alcohol consumption
- Manage weight through a healthy diet and exercise routine
- Manage diabetes, high blood pressure, or other health problems
- Always wear sunglasses when outdoors
Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye and compromise vision. Fortunately, cataracts can be treated. To learn about the cataract treatments offered by Dr. Raul Peña at his eye institute, call (956) 264-1200 at your earliest convenience or schedule an appointment online.