Cataract Awareness Month

August 2, 2020

BY Jennifer Kessler, O.D.

Cataract Awareness Month


Cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness in the world, and more than 25 million Americans age 40 and older are affected.


What Are Cataracts?


A cataract is the opacification or clouding of the lens inside the eye.  They tend to develop slowly, and can affect one or both eyes.  Symptoms include dimmed color perception (similar to looking through a dirty window), blurry or double vision, and increased glare and halos around lights at night.  


There are three main types of cataracts: nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular.  Nuclear cataracts are the gradual yellowing of the center of the lens that develops with age.  Cortical cataracts are wedge-shaped opacities that are arranged in a spoke-like pattern, similar to a bike wheel.  Posterior subcapsular cataracts are opacities that are located centrally at the posterior end of the lens, and they tend to occur in younger patients than the other types of cataracts.


What Causes Cataracts?


For the most part, cataracts are an age-related condition that develop later in life.  As we get older, the lens accumulates proteins and yellow-brown pigments that reduce the transmission of light through the lens to the retina, the light perceiving cells in the back of the eye.  Other causes include blunt force trauma, smoking, and UV light exposure.


What is the Treatment for Cataracts?


In the early stages of development, cataracts can usually be treated by updating the prescription in your glasses.  Adding an anti-reflection coating or yellow/amber tint to the lenses can also help reduce the glare and halo affects at night.


Once vision can no longer be improved with an updated prescription, the next treatment option is surgery.  The operation includes removal of the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial one.  There are many different artificial lens options, and most of the time your vision can be corrected so that you may only need reading glasses after the procedure.  There are single vision lenses that can be set for your distance or near vision, toric lenses that correct astigmatism, and more recently they have developed multifocal lenses that work as a bifocal inside your eye—removing the need for reading glasses all together.


How Can Cataracts Be Prevented?


The best way to prevent cataracts is to limit your exposure of UVA and UVB light by wearing sunglasses when you are outside, and the earlier in life you start the better. Nutrition can also play an important role in reducing the risk of cataracts and their progressive development.  It is important to make sure you are eating adequate amounts of antioxidants (vitamin A, C, E) and carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) each day, as they have been found to reduce the risk of cataract progression by the Nutrition and Vision Project.  It is recommended to eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables and 2 servings of nuts and seeds each day.  The goal is to consume about 100mg of vitamin C, 5-6mg of the carotenoids, and 8-14mg of vitamin E. 



Recomended Dietary

Allowance (RDA)1,2

Levels Associated

with Health Benefits

Percent of People

Getting Less than

100% of RDA 1,2,3,4

Vitamin C

90 mg for men

75 mg for women

+35 mg for smokers

≥ 250 mg

More than 50% of 


Vitamen E*

22 iu (15 mg) natural

33 IU (30 mg) synthetic

≥ 100 IU

More than 90% of 


Lutein and


-6 mg

Average intake

per day 1.7 mg

* The Food and Nutrition Board reported two different RDA values for vitamin E depending on synthetic or natural source.
** There is no RDA for lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. 1. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Carotenoids. Institute of Medicine, 2000.
2. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A and Zinc. Institute of Medicine, 2001.
3. Vitamin and mineral data were obtained from CSFII, 1994-1996. Values correspond to all individuals.
4. Carotenoid data was gathered from NHANES III, 1988-1994.


 Here is a list of foods and the amount of cratenoids found in each one:


(1 cup)

Lutein and ZeaxanthinLuteinZeaxanthin
Kale20.5 - 26.5*-

1.1 - 2.2*

Collard greens15.3-5.1
Spinach3.6 -12.6*1.7 - 13.3*0.5 -5.9
Turnip greens12.1-0.4
Broccoli2.1 - 3.5*1.4 - 1.6*-
Corn, yellow1.4 -
Peas, green2.32.2-
Orange pepper--1.7

*depending on variety and preparation

Source:            USDA-NCC Carotenoid Database, 1998

                          USDA Food Nutrient Database for Standard Release 13
                          Hart and Scott, 1995