“Dr. Schramm, my eye doctor, told me that I have “little” cataracts, but they are not yet “visually significant”. What does this mean? Is there anything I can do to slow the growth of my cataracts?
Cataracts are natural changes found in the lens of the eye located behind the pupil. Unlike other cells of the body that sluff off and regenerate, the lens is made of cells that are the same cells since birth, so they age with you. As you get older, the lens changes color from clear to yellowish or brown. The lens thickens causing the loss of focus for reading. Proteins within the lens can migrate or bind together, causing opacities as you age. That’s why three times more light enters a 20 year old’s eye compared to the average 60 year old!
“Visually significant” refers to eye vision issues that now affect quality of life. Years ago, the cataract needed to be dense or “ripe” to remove it all in one piece through a large incision. Now, the most advanced technology uses a laser to dissolve the cataract. There are only about a hundred surgery centers in the country with this technology.
Symptoms of cataracts include: blurry vision, trouble reading (even with glasses), need for brighter lights to see, difficulty with night driving, loss of contrast sensitivity (unable to see the golf ball on the green), and glare. Risk factors are age, smoking, chronic ultraviolet exposure (sunlight), diabetes, steroid use, and high glycemic load due to consumption of sugar, soda, high fructose corn syrup, etc.
As cataracts progress, it becomes more difficult to see blue colors due to the yellowing of the lens. The painter Charles Monet’s art became more and more blue as his perception of this color diminished.
To slow cataract progression, it is best to limit sun exposure by use of sunglasses, follow a diet high in antioxidants (fruits, vegetables, spices), and discontinue pro-oxidants such as tobacco, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and fried foods.
Foods that may slow cataract progression include: green leafy vegetables, goji berries, green tea, blueberries, and red wine.
In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2013, a meta-analysis of 13 studies with 18,999 participants showed that Vitamin E, lutein, and zeaxanthin reduced the risk of age related cataracts.
New advanced cataract surgery can make you less dependent on glasses. Single power and astigmatism lenses can help most people see well for distance vision. Multifocal implants although more expensive, can help you see distance, reading and some intermediate ranges of vision without the need for glasses.
Dr. Nathan Schramm, O.D., C.N.S. is an Optometric Physician and is a Certified Nutritional Specialist. He is in practice with his wife, Dr. Julie Abraham O.D., at various locations throughout south Florida. Dr. Schramm is currently accepting new patients and appointments can be made at (954) 217-2992. www.naturaleyesofweston.com
This article does not replace the need for a yearly comprehensive eye exam by a qualified eye care professional.