Cataracts and Cholesterol

Imagine being unable to differentiate the majestic shades of dusk, the celestial hues of dawn, and lacking the visual acuity to see much of anything clearly. Though not suffered solely by the middle aged or elderly, cataracts most often affect people in their mid- to- late sixties. With increased age and decreased sight, come changes to one’s quality of life and often, a longing to see things as they truly are.

What are Cataracts

Cataracts develop when the lens within the eye becomes cloudy or hazy. Much like a car window in need of a good cleaning, cataracts make it difficult to see objects with any sort of clarity, both in color and distance. With an inability to see road signs well enough to drive safely, as well as visual impairments that make reading almost impossible, cataracts can significantly alter the course of one’s life. And while this condition is not a death sentence as it were, it can degrade one’s desire to interact with the rest of the seeing- world.

Symptoms

In addition to the blurred vision described above, cataracts are characterized by symptoms that include extreme sensitivity to light, double and blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, the need to change eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions frequently, a distortion in colors and shapes, and the presence of a ring of light that resembles a halo, around what you can see.

Causes

Advanced age and illness are the most common causes of the development of cataracts. A family history of cataracts increases the susceptibility of contracting this condition, as does a pre existing diagnosis of diabetes. When one’s blood blood blood blood blood blood blood blood blood blood blood blood blood glucose levels increase, blood and intraocular pressure go up, and can lead to swelling of the lens, alterations in retinal functioning and in turn, blurred vision that alerts us to the presence of cataracts.

The proper management of diabetes, as it relates to one’s ocular health, makes it clear that diet and nutrition are linked to the presence and development of cataracts. While the consumption of diets rich in nutrients and vitamins is key to overall health, one must also be mindful of the amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. According to a study conducted in Sweden in the early to mid 2000’s, 11% of females who regularly drank two or more cups of alcohol were found to be at increased risk for cataract surgery two years after their initial evaluation.

Last but certainly not least, there are certain ethnic groups, African Americans for example, who are at greater risk of developing cataracts. This is likely due to issues related to melanin and the fact that individuals with darker eyes have a higher chance of developing cataracts. Those who sunbathe and take in the sun’s UV rays sans sunglasses, also put themselves at great risk of experiencing cloudy, hazy, and pathological visual problems seeing

Good and Bad Cholesterol

Studies cited in the April 2014 edition of the journal, Review of Optometry, detailed the positively correlated link between abnormal cholesterol levels and the rate of cataracts. While cholesterol itself is neither good nor bad, there are types that, in abnormal amounts, can cause significant damage to the cardiovascular system. And because we rely so heavily on proper functioning of this system, it is no wonder that everything from breathing to the ability to see clearly, is affected. How each type of cholesterol affects us however, is for further discussion..

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)

Low density lipoprotein, or LDL, is what we call the “bad” type of cholesterol because its buildup in the system lends itself to arterial blockages and cardiovascular disease. In addition to obesity, smoking, and diabetes, other symptoms of hypercholesterolemia related to elevated levels of LDL include inactivity, a large waist circumference, and eating foods high in saturated fat.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)

Conversely, elevated levels of high density lipoprotein, or HDL, are indicators of heart health. Unlike LDL, we want to increase our HDL levels, as doing so decreases the chances of developing an assortment of cardiovascular diseases. Though they function on opposite sides of the cholesterol spectrum, the habits needed to decrease LDL is quite similar to those needed to increase one’s HDL.

Changes in the Eyes Related to Cholesterol

Based on recent data, it was determined that low levels of LDL can cause cataracts. This is due to the increased levels of bad cholesterol LDL is comprised of. As this type of cholesterol moves through the bloodstream, it dramatically affects the lens and retina. Hypertension, a condition that increases blood pressure systemically, can cause swelling along the retina and lens, forcefully pushing cholesterol deposits towards the inner eye. High cholesterol coupled with high blood pressure, creates a perfect storm for visual ailments. And because our body systems have to work symbiotically, the presence of cataracts can inform us of elevated levels of cholesterol. In turn, cardiovascular changes can and often do, alert us to the propensity and likelihood of developing cataracts.

The Connection Between Cholesterol and Cataracts

Cholesterol has a profound effect on our health. From what we eat, to how we behave, cholesterol quite literally colors the world in which we live. It is important to understand too, that cholesterol problems are part of a much broader discussion about public welfare that extends to ocular health and beyond.

Diet, exercise, and taking prescription medication as needed is a significant factor in our overall health, particularly as it proves time again, that every part of us is affected by what we consume, how safely, or dangerously we live our lives, and our personal convictions to well being. If you are interested in pursuing this and any other health concerns, contact Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC of Body Systems Wellness, in Glendale, California.

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