How to prevent (or at least delay) cataracts

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have reported that 1.5 million Afghan citizens suffer from eye diseases including cataracts, which attribute to a large percentage of Afghani eye problems. (Majid Saeedi, Getty Images)

Cataracts, a clouding of the eye's lens that blocks vision, are common in people 65 and older. But although age is a major risk factor, you may be able to slow the process. Some tips:

Wear sunglasses. The sun's ultraviolet rays can speed up tissue damage. Buy glasses that guard against both types of rays, UVA and UVB.

Eat healthy foods. Vitamins in fresh vegetables and fruits may protect the lens. Other foods that help support eye health include whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Control diabetes. High blood sugar levels irritate eye tissue and also damage proteins in the lens. To reduce your chances of developing diabetes, work to stay at a healthy weight.

Quit smoking. Studies indicate that smokers may experience cataract symptoms earlier than non-smokers. Cigarettes speed up the body's aging process and also increase the risk of high blood pressure, which may be another contributing factor for cataracts.

Don't drink too much alcohol. People who have four or more drinks a day may be more likely to get cataracts, research has shown.

Check on your medication. Long-term use of certain drugs including steroidal eye drops for seasonal allergies, corticosteroids for asthma, tranquilizers and treatments for psoriasis and other skin conditions may raise the risk of cataracts. Talk to your primary care physician and eye doctor.

Have regular eye exams. The earlier cataracts are diagnosed, the easier they are to treat using one of a variety of surgical techniques.

Don't ignore symptoms. These include clouded or blurred vision, increasing problems with night vision, sensitivity to lights and glare, seeing halos around light and a fading of colors. But see a doctor whenever you notice a significant change in your eyesight.