At the age of 39, Sharon Charlton found herself able to see clearly for the first time in her life.

Born with eyesight problems, Mrs Charlton, from Selsey, had to wait until the cataracts on both her eyes had fully developed before she was able to have two separate operations to remove them.

At the end of last year, Mrs Charlton underwent her second operation at Worthing Hospital and now has clear vision.

Cataract operations are used for people with congenital problems, like Mrs Charlton, and for those who have developed cataracts following an accident or a blow to the eye.

But the majority of operations are carried out on older people who have grown cataracts as the lens of the eye hardens.

From the age of 40, the lens of the eye becomes more rigid and loses flexibility.

By 65, most people have some degree of cataract formation and many are showing signs of age-related macular (part of the retina) degeneration, which is the leading cause of loss of vision in the over-50s.

One thing people should not bet on is their eyes staying clear-sighted and bright for a lifetime.

Eyes need special help to fight off the ravages of time, so nutritionists advise tipping the odds in favour of retaining youthful sight by taking the nutritional route.

Good nutrition is thought to play a part in prevention of cataracts and nutritionists say eating a healthy, balanced diet is a useful step.

Brighton nutritionist Emma Clarke says: "A well balanced diet is essential if you wish to maintain or improve your vision.

"Base your diet on wholefoods, eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and dairy produce and keep tea, coffee and refined sugars to an absolute minimum.

You will then be well on your way to improving not only your vision but your health in general as well."

There are certain vitamins and minerals that can be taken that are of particular importance for the eyes.

Vitamin A is helpful for many types of eye problem, including poor vision in dim light or at night.

Good food sources are fish liver oil, liver, carrots, egg, cheese, butter, milk, green vegetables and yellow and orange fruit and vegetables.

Vitamin B complex is required by the eyes to keep them healthy.

A deficiency of B2 can lead to bloodshot, burning or gritty-feeling eyes, cataracts and sensitivity to bright lights.

Good food sources are brewer's yeast, yeast extract, wheatgerm and wholegrain cereals.

Vitamin C has also been found to help in the prevention of cataracts glaucoma, and high concentrations of vitamin C are found in healthy eyes.

Good sources of Vitamin C are citrus fruits, tomatoes, green vegetables and potatoes.

Vitamin E helps keep the blood vessels and retina healthy and can be found in wheatgerm, vegetable oils, wholegrain bread and cereals and green vegetables.

Fish and shellfish contain selenium, which can help to prevent cataracts and slow the ageing of the eye.

Special nutritional supplements are available, containing extracts of bilberries, which are thought to be even better for the eyes than carrots.

Bilberries are good for the eyes because they contain anthocyanosides, which help to protect the pigmented part of the retina from damage.

They also appear to play a role in decreasing the fragility of capillaries and safeguarding the blood supply.

It was Second World War pilots who first noticed that night vision improved when they ate them.

Mrs Clarke said: "It is amazing how something seemingly so simple can make such a difference.

"We are not saying if you have all these vitamins you won't develop any eyesight problems but they will give you more of a fighting chance against anything happening.

"I cannot begin to stress the importance of vitamins and nutrients in all aspects of health not just for the eyesight."