Recent studies show cataracts aren’t just a seniors’ condition. And, emergency service workers are at risk.

Our eyes are one of the most fragile organs in the body. We know that over time, as we age, our vision is compromised. There are those genetically blessed people who go their whole life, without wearing glasses. But other people experience cataracts and vision-impairment earlier in life.

Cataracts often fall into the group of health issues that spark the “I’m too young for this” response. And while nearly 3 in 4 people over 80 have cataracts, this isn’t a condition that’s isolated to the elderly. This natural clouding of the eye’s clear lens can show up in your 40s.

While there’s no direct link between cataracts and emergency services work, these professions are exposed to the lifestyle risk factors.

What causes cataracts?

First, let’s define how they form. The lens sits behind the iris and pupil. Think of a camera lens. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where the ‘image’ is stored. The lens adjusts the eye, allowing us to see clearly, close up and far away. The lens is mostly water and protein – precisely arranged to keep the lens clear, as light passes through.

This protein groups together as we get older, clouding in an isolated area. This is a cataract – and they grow larger, making it harder to see.

Beyond ageing, certain lifestyle choices increase the likelihood of cataracts forming. The two main concerns are smoking, alcohol, and extended exposure to UV light. For people with diabetes, controlling blood sugar levels is extremely important. There are also links between high blood pressure, inflammation, and previous eye injuries. Certain medications (such as steroids) also increase cataract risk.

Emergency services and poor eyesight

The connection between alcoholism and emergency services work is widely reported. It’s a common coping mechanism for people who have experienced traumatic events on the job.

Emergency service workers spend extended periods of time outside, exposed to UV light. For example, police who are controlling the roads, or lifesavers on duty. There are dietary links, too. 

A national paper found that cataracts are higher in people with low dietary intakes of fruit and vegetables, vitamins C and E beta carotene. For people working shifts, missing home-cooked meals and relying on quick food options, their bodies have less power in fighting cataracts.

Delay the development of cataracts through healthy lifestyle

Most people experience cataracts at some point. However, it’s the progression of this condition that individuals should pay attention to. Cataracts impact every part of your daily life, particularly for emergency services crew.

Avoid the lifestyle triggers and take care of your eyes while in the sun. Keep on top of medical conditions that affect your eyes, like diabetes.

If you’re noticing a gradual decrease in vision, cloudy or blurry sight, loss of colour sensitivity or double vision, see your GP. Perfect sight is essential in your career as a first responder. It’s a tool you need to protect with your life.

Emergency Services Health covers a range of optical services including optometry, eye therapy and cataract surgeries. Following a healthy lifestyle can help postpone or prevent the development of cataracts. Leverage our dietary and exercise physiology support, particularly for diabetics.

You’re the eyes and ears of our community. Keep your vision sharp, by making eye health a priority.

Please note: some articles on this website are compiled from material obtained externally. Although we make every effort to ensure information is correct at the time of publication, we accept no responsibility for its accuracy. Health-related articles are intended for general information only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your doctor. The views expressed in articles are not necessarily those of Emergency Services Health.