About 25 million Americans have cataracts, which causes cloudy, blurred or dim vision and often develops with advancing age. About 70 percent of people will have cataracts by age 75. In June, Coastal Jersey Eye will join the American Academy of Ophthalmology in observing Cataract Awareness Month by sharing information about cataract risk factors.

Cataracts occur naturally with age and cloud the eye’s lens, turning it opaque. Despite the advent of modern cataract removal surgery, cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness globally. Although cataracts cannot be prevented, you can lower your risk of developing them.

 A study published in Ophthalmology suggests that a diet rich in vitamin C could cut risk of cataract progression by a third. Researchers found that people who consumed vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, red peppers, broccoli and kale had a 33 percent risk reduction of cataract progression.

How vitamin C inhibits cataract progression may have to do with its strength as an antioxidant. The fluid inside the eye is normally high in vitamin C, which helps prevents oxidation that clouds the lens. More vitamin C in the diet may increase the amount present in the fluid around the lens, providing extra protection. Researchers noted that the findings only pertain to consuming the nutrient through food and not vitamin supplements.

Since extensive exposure to sunlight has been linked to cataract development, wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and brimmed hats when outdoors can help. Also, avoid smoking cigarettes, which have been shown to increase cataract risk.

Other risk factors for developing cataracts include diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and long-term use of steroids. Talk to your ophthalmologist about your risk factors, and if cataracts are interfering with your ability to see well, ask about cataract surgery.

Stephen H. Uretsky, MD of the Coastal Jersey Eye Center is a leading board-certified ophthalmologist specializing in comprehensive eye care. The Coastal Jersey Eye Center has offices in Linwood and Cape May Court House. To make an appointment, call us at 609.927.3373 in Linwood or 609.465.7926 in Cape May Court House or visit us online at www.coastaljerseyeye.com.

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