Monday, January 17, 2011

"What A Drag It Is Getting Old"

You may recognize that line out the Rolling Stones' song, "Mother's Little Helper."  I went to my opthamologist the other day for my annual eye exam, and she mentioned that I was beginning to develop a cataracts, one eye more than the other.  It was barely noticeable, just a slight yellowing, and not to worry--these take decades to reach a point where they require surgery or even cause substantial changes in vision.

My recollection was that cataracts are caused by radiation exposure, both ionizing radiation (gamma rays, neutrons, alpha particles) and ultraviolet light.  My opthamologist seemed unaware of the ionizing radiation connection (but no, my memory isn't faulty on this), but indicated that UV is an issue, and that I should always wear UV blocking glasses when out of doors.  This is especially so in winter, when UV reflection from the snow is a problem. 

We checked on my prescription, and discovered that I have been wearing glasses with a UV blocking coating on them for a long time--and I assure you, I always wear glasses when out of doors.  That's because my eyesight is so poor that were I venture outside my home without glasses, it would likely cause a fatal accident!  Still, I will get some clip-ons to wear when outside, and especially when blowing snow in the daytime.

I am a bit concerned that the use of steroid inhalers for my sinuses (which has been an on and off again part of treatment for my chronic vasomotor rhinitis problem for many years) might be a factor, since corticosteroids are listed as a causal factor as well.  The sinus surgery some years ago made this less necessary than it was before, but I do wonder if there's a connection--especially since the sinuses and the eyes are so close together.

The Wikipedia article makes the point that antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E, should help slow cataract development--but experiments to try this theory have found them ineffective.  This study finds that a more specific antioxidant--N-acetylcarnosine--delays cataract development, but there seems to be some question how meaningful the size of the sample was.  Since this is a topically applied eyedrop, and someone is busily selling this as a product, I think I'll try and do a bit more research and ask my doctor before joining the herd.


  1. My 80-year-old father just had a cataract removed. The first time he's been under the knife since childhood. It apparently was a non-event.

  2. My father had a cataract removed also. He remarked on how much brighter and more colorful the world was afterward.

    Still, if you want to avoid them, best to get wraparound frames for those sunglasses or glacier sideshields. A significant amount of light comes in from the sides and you really need something on the side.

  3. When I find my way back to CONUS I intend to get the clear lens replacements--if anyone will do them. You might want to look into that as it could fix the cataract problem AND correct your vision.