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Why Drinking Wine May Help Prevent Cataracts

Some say that just like fine wine, people get better with age. While this may be true for character and personality, it often isn’t the case as it comes to one’s eyes. Age is often accompanied with all sorts of eye problems, like macular degeneration, dry eyes and cataracts.

But these eye conditions aren’t inevitable. Certain actions, habits, foods (and drinks!) may help ward off or reduce the severity of age-related eye problems—like cataracts.

But First, What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens that affects millions of people in North America.

Symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Cloudy or blurred vision
  • Colors that seem faded
  • Trouble seeing at night
  • Double vision
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • The need to frequently update one’s corrective lens prescription

Cataracts occur naturally with age and may not always require treatment if a person’s vision remains mostly clear. Keep in mind that eye injury and certain eye diseases may also lead to cataracts.

The main treatment for cataracts is cataract surgery—it replaces the natural, cloudy lens with a clear, artificial lens.

The onset of cataracts may be prevented or at least delayed by wearing sunglasses, quitting smoking, having regular eye exams and eating nutritious foods (yes, wine included).

How Drinking Wine May Help Prevent Cataract

Wine is loaded with eye-healthy antioxidants that may protect the eyes against cataracts and other age-related conditions. Several studies have reported numerous benefits of regular and moderate wine consumption, including protection against heart disease and macular degeneration.

A recent study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, on the relationship between wine and cataracts involves data from 490,000 individuals who voluntarily disclosed details about their lifestyle and eating habits. When all other factors were considered (age, gender, smoking, weight, diabetes, ethnicity), the findings concluded that consuming about 6.5 glasses of wine per week may decrease a person’s risk of needing cataract surgery.

According to the study, wine drinkers seem to be the least likely candidates for cataract surgery when compared to non-drinkers or those who consumed other varieties of alcohol, like beer and liquor.

It’s important to note that the study does not establish a causal relationship between wine consumption and cataract surgery—only a significant association linking the two.

The head of the study, Dr. Sharon Chua, further explains that the development of cataracts may be due to gradual oxidative stress, which is a natural part of aging. The abundance of polyphenol antioxidants in wine may help counteract oxidative stress.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Participants who consumed a glass of wine 1-2 times per week had a 7% reduced need for cataract surgery than those who drank 1-3 times or less per month.
  • Participants who drank a glass of wine daily or almost daily experienced a 5-6% increased risk of cataract surgery compared to those who drank 1-4 times a week.
  • Consuming red wine weekly provided participants with a 14% reduced need for cataract surgery compared to those who abstained.
  • Weekly consumption of white wine and champagne reduced the need for cataract surgery by 10%.

So, what’s the bottom line?

Antioxidants are super beneficial for eye health and may help reduce your risk of developing a severe case of cataracts that would require surgery. This study suggests that moderate wine consumption on a weekly basis may lower your risk of cataract surgery when coupled with an antioxidant-rich diet. Furthermore, red wine seemed to have the most dramatic effect compared to white wine or other forms of alcohol.

Speak to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diet, just to be safe.

For further information and guidance about keeping your eyes healthy, speak with Dr. Kristina Wittrock about your options.

Don’t forget to have your annual eye exam to check for vision health by contacting StylEyes in West Des Moines today!

At StylEyes, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 515-225-6447 or book an appointment online to see one of our West Des Moines eye doctors.

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Q&A:

#1: What other foods can help protect the eyes against cataracts?

Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins A, C and E, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Try to consume produce of every color for a variety of eye-protecting nutrients. Your optometrist can offer further guidance for your personal situation.

#2: When is cataract surgery a good option?

Cataract surgery is the only method of removing cataracts, and may be necessary when your cloudy vision stops you from carrying out daily tasks, like driving and reading. If cataracts are detected, your optometrist will closely track your vision and recommend the next steps.

What You Should Know About Night Blindness

If you don’t see well while driving at night, there’s a chance you have night blindness. Night blindness, or nyctalopia, is the inability to see well at night or in dim lighting. It’s not considered an eye disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying problem.

Our eye doctor in West Des Moines can help diagnose, manage and treat your night blindness with specialized digital eye exams, so that you can enjoy being out and about at night again.

Here are 4 things you should know about night blindness:

Causes of Night Blindness

The inability to see well at night can be the result of a condition such as:

  • Vitamin A Deficiency — Vitamin A helps keep your cornea, the layer at the front of your eye, clear; it’s also an important component of rhodopsin, a protein that enables you to see in low light conditions. Although uncommon in North America, deficiency of this vitamin can induce night blindness.
  • CataractsA buildup of protein clouds the eye’s lens, leading to impaired vision, especially at night and in poor lighting conditions.
  • Diabetic RetinopathyDamage to the eyes’ blood vessels and nerves can result in vision loss, including difficulty seeing at night.
  • GlaucomaThis group of eye diseases is associated with pressure build-up in the eye that damages the optic nerve. Both glaucoma and the medications used to treat it can cause night blindness.
  • MyopiaAlso called nearsightedness, myopia makes distant objects appear blurry, and patients with it describe a starburst effect around lights at night.
  • KeratoconusAn irregularly shaped cornea causes blurred vision and may involve sensitivity to light and glare which tend to be worse at night.
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)A progressive genetic eye disease which can be associated with other diseases, RP leads to night blindness and peripheral vision loss.
  • Usher SyndromeThis genetic condition causes both hearing loss and vision loss, including night blindness and RP, mentioned above.

Symptoms of Nyctalopia

Since night blindness is a symptom of some serious vision problems, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly to ensure that everything is in good working order. Contact your eye doctor as soon as possible if you notice that you don’t see as well in dim light as you used to, such as when driving at night or when adjusting from being outdoors in the sunshine to being indoors.

Symptoms of Night Blindness Include:

  • Reduced contrast sensitivity
  • Difficulty seeing people outdoors at night
  • Difficulty seeing in places with dim lighting, like a movie theater
  • Trouble adapting to the dark while driving
  • Excessive squinting at night
  • Trouble adjusting from bright areas to darker ones

Treatments for Night Blindness

Your eye doctor will want to diagnose the cause of your night blindness in order to treat it. For example, in the rare case of vitamin A deficiency, it can be treated with vitamin supplements and vitamin-A rich foods; myopia can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Other conditions may require medications or surgery.

If night blindness is caused by a birth defect, Usher syndrome, or retinitis pigmentosa, low vision aids and devices can help you make the most of your remaining vision.

Prevention

While there is no proven way to prevent night blindness resulting from genetic conditions or birth defects, consuming healthy, nourishing foods and taking certain vitamin supplements may prevent or slow the onset of some eye conditions that cause night blindness.

If you experience poor vision at night or in dim lighting, we can help. Contact StylEyes in West Des Moines to schedule your appointment today.