Cataracts are a very real and common problem. To a large extent they are simply one of those predictable gifts of aging.
About 50% of Americans who make it to the age of 80 will have cataracts. Of course, you can always get cataract surgery. It’s pretty simple and easy.
But there are complications. And some of them are serious. These include infection, retinal detachment, glaucoma, secondary cataract, and loss of vision.
Last year, I saw two patients who suffered from botched cataract surgery.
But age isn’t the only reason cataracts form.
One reason cataracts form is diabetes and excessive carbohydrate in the diet. To much glucose in the blood is a big cause of cataracts.
Another is eye surgery, and that includes Lasik surgery.
Yet another common cause for cataracts is the excessive use of either steroid eye drops or steroid medications. These include those commonly prescribed for allergies, asthma, and COPD.
And there’s one cause of cataracts that’s particularly obnoxious. It’s the eye injections that are often prescribed for macular degeneration.
So How Can You Avoid Cataracts?
The best thing you can do is make sure you never get a cataract. If you can do that, you’d be in the 50% of those who make it to 80 and never get one.
Fortunately, a recent study shows us an easy way to help you reach that goal.
The authors of the study reviewed all of the studies that have been published in the library of medicine up to 2014. They were looking specifically for one thing:
They wanted to find studies that evaluated whether or not vitamin E intake and vitamin E blood levels affected the chance of getting cataracts. They looked at men and women of all ages and with all kinds of cataracts. Here’s what they found.
Higher levels of vitamin E intake reduced the chance of getting cataracts by 27%. Higher blood levels of vitamin E reduced the risk about the same — 25%.
In the words of the authors, “The findings of the meta-analysis indicated that dietary vitamin E intake, dietary and supplemental vitamin E intake, and high level of serum tocopherol [vitamin E] might be significantly associated with reduced cataract risk.”
What You Can Do
If you want to prevent cataracts — and especially if you have any of the cataract-causing factors I just mentioned — be sure to do two things.
Make sure you have your eyes checked at least every two to three years. Catching a cataract early can open up treatment options besides surgery. These may not fix the cataract completely, but they can delay the need for surgery.
Sometimes you can completely avoid surgery – particularly if you take vitamin E. Make sure to take at least 400 units of vitamin E per day. Taking vitamin E along with other eye nutrients like bilberry, lutein, and astaxanthin can keep your eyes healthy throughout your life.
Zhang, Y., W. Jiang, Z. Xie, et al. “Vitamin E and risk of age-related cataract: a meta-analysis.” Public Health Nutr. 2015 January 16:1-11.