When it comes to eye care, most people do not consider the impact of diet and maintaining a healthy body. There’s a popular saying that goes, “You are what you eat.” If you are like most people, you don’t care for your eyes at all until you start having a vision problem. But, would you believe that vision care does not begin with eye exams at an eye doctor? It begins with a healthy diet!

Most people do not know that eye disease often grows from inadequate nutrition and diet. Two of the most common vision problems are cataracts, and complications due to diabetes, and both of these are often caused by a poor diet. 

Eye Care Begins With Your Diet

Your eyes require a healthy diet. The simplest way to maintain optimal vision is to focus on a diet high in nutrients and rich in antioxidants. Also, if you’re unsure about your vision, even if you are consuming a healthy diet, you should seek advance eye care with a proper eye examination. Visiting a local eye doctor can help you to:

  • Test for vision problems; such as nearsighted, farsighted, cataracts, etc.
  • Check to see how your eyes work together
  • Perform pressure and optic nerve tests (for glaucoma)
  • Provide essential family eye care

You can also request any special recommendations from your family eye care doctor to ensure you’re getting a healthy intake of the nutrients you need to maintain good vision.

Cataracts are Caused by Bad Diet

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA): “Cataracts are a leading cause of visual impairment among aging Americans and a key quality of life issue.” The AOA reports more than million surgical procedures for cataract removal each year. However, they also say that many of these surgeries can be reduced with an improved diet.

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts occur when the proteins in the lenses of your eyes become damaged, thus causing them to become translucent or opaque. Cataracts develop in the lenses of the eyes for many reasons, such as:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Smoking (risk factor that increases the chances of cataracts developing)
  • Diabetes (as mentioned above)
  • Ethnicity (African Americans are at a higher risk of developing cataracts and becoming blind from them)
  • Women may have a slightly higher risk than men
  • Lack of a healthy and balanced diet

How Does Diet Care Influence Cataracts?

Research published in the International Journal of Obesity came to the following conclusion: The breakdown of lens cells causes cataracts. Do you want your eyes to look like this:

Eye with Cataract

The three most common causes of diabetic induced cataracts are:

  • Oxidative stress: Due to an imbalance of antioxidants, allowing harmful free radicals to exist without being broken down resulting in damages to the body (and eye);
  • Osmotic gradients: When glucose enters the lens and converts into sorbitol, a sugar-like chemical that cannot be absorbed by the body.
  • Glycosylation:

For age-related cataracts, the following risk factors were found:

  • Diabetes
  • Steroid us
  • Smoking

Eye Care Recommendations to Reduce Cataract Risk

Since cataracts are due to the accumulation of damaged cell proteins, the best way to prevent this from occurring is a diet rich in:

  • Antioxidants, such as:
  • Vitamin A
  • A- and B-carotene

Carrots and apricots, as well as a cooked sweet potato, are a quick and easy way to add more than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for these nutrients.

Good Diet Care Food is Good Eye Care

Healthy Diet Care Is Not A Cure

Before you discover ways to improve your diet to improve your vision, remember that eating certain foods is not a cure for eye diseases. If you wear prescription glasses or your vision is blurry, eating more vitamins or taking nutritional supplements will not give your vision back if it is already lost. A good diet is a long term investment in your health, and also for your entire body.

However, if you are developing cataracts, there are certain glasses lenses and options which may help in certain situations, for example, to mitigate glare during night driving.

Foods to Improve Healthy Eye Care

Having the right nutrients in your diet can go a long way to maintaining and preserving good vision. To guide you in selecting the right foods, here are five eye-friendly nutrients recommended by the American Optometrist Association (AOA):

#1. Vitamin C

Found in many fruits and vegetables, Vitamin C is particularly effective at slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and visual acuity loss. It is also important for the following reasons:

  • Supports healthy blood vessels
  • Decrease risk of cataracts
  • Can slow the progression of AMD (when taken along with beta-carotene, vitamin E, and zinc supplement)

#2. Lutein & Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin have been clinically linked to helping reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Having a diet that includes leafy green vegetables is a simple way to get more of these super eye-health foods. You can also find these nutrients in eggs.

#3. Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in the body by bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina. This produces is absolutely fundamental to produce melanin, a protective pigment that helps against harmful UV rays. Throughout your whole body, your eye has the highest concentrations of zinc. Therefore, it’s critical to maintain a diet rich in zinc-rich foods, such as:

  • Red meat
  • Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Wheat germ
  • Mixed nuts
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Tofu

Other Care Tips for Healthy Eyes

It’s important to maintain healthy eyes with a proper intake of nutrients to support it. However, eating eye-healthy foods is not the only way you can ensure the health and performance of your vision. Other ways you can care for your vision include:

  • Visiting your eye doctor every one or two years
  • Avoid smoking
  • Manage blood sugar
  • Wear the right protective eye gear when participating in sports, hobbies, work, or other tasks that may pose risks to your eyes.

Diabetes and Eye Care

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease provides ample research on the link between diabetes and vision health. They compiled a detailed list of various diabetic eye diseases and problems that can occur. If you are diabetic, it is essential that you receive regular eye care exams from your ophthalmologist and/or optometrist. The following are a few of the symptoms due to rising blood sugar (i.e., before being diagnosed with diabetes):

  • Vision loss from high blood glucose
  • Blurry vision for days or weeks
  • Cause swelling in tissues ( causing temporary blurry vision that goes away when blood sugar lowers)
  • Prolonged high glucose can damage tiny blood vessels
  • Damaged blood vessels can cause fluid to leak
  • These damages can cause internal bleeding, high ocular pressure, and scarring
  • Low vision, caused from a variety of related diseases

Four Serious Eye Diseases Common To Diabetics

Four Serious Eye Diseases Common To Diabetics

Whether or not someone is diagnosed with diabetes, the following are four serious diseases that can put your vision at risk:

1. Diabetic Retinopathy

The retina is a light-sensitive region of the eye that focuses images coming through the eye’s lens. When diabetic retinopathy occurs, blood vessels weaken, bulge, and can lean into the retina which can result in serious vision problems.

Retina Showing Diabetic Retinopathy

 2. Diabetic Macular Edema

The macula is a critical region of your eye that’s needed for reading, driving, and seeing. Diabetes can cause the macula to swell and result in macular edema which is the partial destruction of the outer vision of your eye. If the disease persists, it can result in partial vision loss or total blindness.

3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease known for causing damage to the optic nerve which results in serious vision loss and blindness. People with diabetes have double to the risk of getting glaucoma, which makes early treatment and a proper diet essential to maintain good vision.

4. Cataracts

Finally, cataracts another serious eye problem for people with diabetes which is thought to be due to glucose levels depositing on the lens of your eyes. People with diabetes tend to get cataracts at a younger age and they tend to  progress faster.

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