Like the lens of a camera, the eye’s lens focuses to keep the images of both close and distant objects clear. Over time, the lens becomes less transparent; studies suggest accumulated exposure to ultraviolet light causes the natural lens to cloud. Most often, this clouding takes place slowly as proteins within the lens degenerate.
What causes the lens to cloud? In most cases, the culprit is the normal aging process. If you are age 65 or older, you probably have cataracts, but they may not have progressed to the point that they affect your vision. Certain lifestyle choices and relatively common health conditions, like diabetes, may hasten cataract development. Nutrition may play at least a limited role. Heavy salt consumption, for example, appears to increase the risk of significant cataract development. Some research suggests that antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamins C and E, and selenium, may slow cataract development. All of these are available in common multivitamin formulas. Beyond that, the use of nutritional supplements carries its own risks; you should consult your physician before adding them to your diet.
Cataracts do NOT generally cause pain, discomfort, redness, discharge, or sudden, alarming vision changes that would lead you to seek immediate help. The changes caused by cataracts generally develop so slowly that you don’t notice them until they are serious enough to affect normal lifestyles.
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