Cataracts & Cataract Surgery Risks Portland, Maine

By Bruce Cassidy, M.D.

Our Maine seniors and others worried about aging eyes and vision loss often ask about who is most at risk for getting cataracts and what they might be able to do to decrease their cataract risk. We like to provide them with some helpful information about their risk of developing cataracts that includes:

  • Age The older you are the more likely that you will develop a cataract, thus increasing age is a risk factor.
  • Family History While we are uncertain about an exact mechanism of genetic transmission, we do see an increased risk of cataracts among family members of those who have cataracts. Be sure to mention to your eye doctor if someone in your family has had a cataract or cataract surgery when you come in for your visit. This is important.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) Light Exposure Excessive exposure to UV radiation, whether from unprotected outdoor activities, tanning booths or sunlamps is a known risk factors for developing cataracts. This is especially important for those who spend a lot of time on the seacoast or mountains or even skiing. Remember to wear UV protective eyewear and it will help the harmful effects of UV on cataract development.
  • Diabetes Patients who are known diabetics as well as those who suffer from uncontrolled elevated blood sugar are considered at increased risk for cataract development. The crystalline lens in your eyes-where cataracts form-is very sensitive to sugar and glucose metabolism. Please make sure you tell us if you have been or are being evaluated for diabetes or high blood sugar.
  • Medications Certain medications such as steroids prescribed for asthma or other systemic inflammatory disease or allergies, statins prescribed for high cholesterol and certain medications prescribed for mental health problems can result in an increased risk of cataracts.
  • Eye Diseases, Problems and Surgery Disease and problems inside the eye such as glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, retinal detachment and uveitis can increase the risk of cataract.
  • Frequent X-Rays or Radiation Treatments to the Head
  • Eye Injury Trauma to the eye, even if only external and not penetrating can often promote cataract formation.

Other Important Cataract Risk & Prevention Information

Smoking & Stopping Smoking and Cataract Risk
Not only does smoking cause a host of cardiovascular and systemic vascular problems, but smoking is now recognized as increasing the risk of cataracts. But, if you do smoke, there is considerable benefit in stopping! Researchers reporting in JAMA Ophthalmology found that stopping smoking decreases the risk of cataracts over time.

  • Smokers of more than 15 cigarettes a day had a 42% increased risk of cataract surgery compared with men who had never smoked.
  • Men who smoked an average of more than 15 cigarettes a day but had stopped smoking more than 20 years earlier had a 21% increased risk

Smoking cessation seems to decrease the risk of cataract development and the need for cataract surgery with time, although the risk persists for decades. The higher the intensity of smoking, the longer it takes for the increased risk to decline. These findings emphasize the importance of early smoking cessation and, preferably, the avoidance of smoking altogether.

Alcohol Consumption & Cataract Risk
Excessive alcohol consumption may increase the risk of cataracts and the need for cataract surgery. Information from the Blue Mountains Eye Study tells us that after considering the effect of age, gender, smoking, diabetes, myopia, socioeconomic status, and steroid medication use, total alcohol consumption of over 2 standard drinks per day was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of cataract surgery, when compared to total daily alcohol consumption of 1 to 2 standard drinks.

Osteoporosis & Cataract Risk
A recent study in the journal Clinical Ophthalmology reported important information regarding an association between cataracts, cataract surgery and osteoporosis. Through careful statistical modeling researchers found that osteoporosis are is associated with an increased prevalence of cataracts which may be related to calcium imbalance, hormonal abnormalities, and even a shared genetic predisposition.

If you or someone you know is concerned about aging eye problems and especially their risk of developing a cataract please contact us to arrange a cataract eye exam and evaluation by calling Eyecare Medical group in Portland, Maine at 207-828-2020.

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