Tags: cataracts | inflammation | eyesight | diabetes

Cataracts: Inflammation Links Risk Factors

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 04:38 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Of all the serious eye diseases, the most common is cataracts, which is a gradual clouding of the lens of the eye caused by chemical changes in the structure of the lens.

Like the lens of your glasses, the eyes’ own lenses function to bring images into focus on the retina, which is the nerve layer of the eye.

Normally, the lenses of our eyes are crystal clear — like the lenses of clean glasses. However, when a cataract begins to develop, vision becomes blurry and it is difficult to focus on objects or read print clearly. Glare also becomes a problem.

Eyes’ lenses are different from the lenses of your glasses or a camera lens in that eyes’ lenses are elastic, changing shape as needed to focus on objects that are near or far away. Special muscles inside the eyes regulate the shape of the lenses as needed.

When a cataract develops, not only does the lens become cloudy, it also loses its ability to change shape.

Ophthalmologists classify cataracts according to the site of development in relation to the lens. Most cataracts, which are associated with aging, begin in the center, or nucleus, of the lens and slowly radiate outward to cover the entire lens.

On the other hand, cortical cataracts begin on the outside of the lens and slowly move inward, while subcapsular cataracts start behind the lens and move forward.

These latter two types of cataracts are most often associated with diabetes and long-term use of steroid medications. They are also associated with a serious hereditary eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which is a gradual degeneration of the retina.

Nuclear cataracts are, by far, the most common type. In addition to aging, these type of cataracts are associated with:

• People with blue eyes

• People over 50

• Those who spend a lot of time outdoors

• People who rarely wear protective eyewear

• Smokers

• People with elevated homocysteine levels

• Diabetics

• People with poor nutrition

• Obese people

• People who take statin medications

• Exposure to toxic metals, including mercury, lead, cadmium, excess iron and nickel

• People who are exposed to ionizing radiation

• People with chronic inflammatory diseases such as autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and atherosclerosis

In most cases, cataracts develop slowly over the course of months or years.

What links all of the above factors is chronic inflammation within the lens of the eye. Exposure to sunlight (UVA and UVB) is considered to be the most common link.

But the inflammation from sun exposure can be aggravated by other risk factors.

For instance, an obese person is more likely to develop a cataract and have it spread faster than a non-obese person. Keep in mind that it is abdominal obesity (fat around the intestines) that is most associated with inflammation.

When you combine characteristics such as smoking, obesity, blue eyes, and poor nutrition, you have a powerful combination of risk factors for eye damage.

Once the lens is inflamed, massive numbers of free radicals are produced, damaging the lipids and proteins within the lens. This causes the proteins to bind in abnormal ways — a process that is called crosslinking.

This crosslinking makes the lens lose its clarity and become stiff. The UV rays trigger this process, as does radiation exposure and the other high-risk conditions.

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When a cataract begins to develop, vision becomes blurry and it is difficult to focus on objects or read print clearly.
cataracts, inflammation, eyesight, diabetes
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 04:38 PM
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