For cataract sufferers terrified that their untreated condition could eventually leave them blind, the good news is that we now know what lifestyle changes can slow a cataract’s progress. And when those changes prove insufficient, a surgical procedure can remove the cataracts and restore normal vision.
In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at what it means to be diagnosed with a cataract. Then we’ll look the desirable lifestyle changes and other commonly recommended remedies for cataracts – because some of them simply aren’t as successful as their advocates claim!
A comprehensive eye exam determines whether cataracts are responsible for failing vision. An ophthalmologist dilates the pupils and examines the corneas, irises, lenses, retina and optic nerves for abnormalities. In addition to cataracts, these could include glaucoma, macular degeneration or retinal detachment.
What does it mean if a thorough eye exam diagnosis cataracts?
What Are Cataracts?
Our eyes contain crystalline lens that bend, or refract, light rays travelling to our optic nerves and brains. They also adjust their focus to make close or distant objects appear equally clear.
The lenses consist largely of water and proteins aligned to let light pass. Sometimes, however, the proteins start deteriorating and clumping. The part of the lens where this occurs gradually stiffens and clouds to form a cataract.
Age-related cataracts typically start in our 40’s. But we usually don’t notice them until our 60’s. According to the National Eye Institute, about half of all Americans 80 or older have experienced at least one cataract.
Why Natural Cataract Remedies Don’t Work
Many advertisers and website owners take advantage of the fact that lots of people like the idea of natural healing. So they promote natural remedies for cataracts, wording their claims to hint that these remedies can reverse them. But they never supply scientific research showing how well their products work. If the evidence is there, why not offer it?
The time and money people lose while hoping that these products live up to their promoters’ unfounded claims would be much better spent on healthy lifestyle changes. While such changes don’t eliminate cataracts, evidence exists that they can slow them down.
Healthy Choices Instead of Cataract Remedies
Adopting healthy lifestyle choices isn’t easy, but it could prevent or minimize cataracts. Obesity, diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption and excessive sun exposure have all been linked to cataracts.
Obesity has been linked to Type 2 Diabetes, and diabetes increases cataract risk three to five times. But, according to this study by UK researchers, a 1-percent drop in A1c blood sugar levels leads to a 19 percent drop in cataract risk.
Adopting a healthy weight-loss program removes two major cataract risk factors. Giving up smoking and alcohol and wearing dark glasses on sunny days address three more. We disagree, however, with the following suggestions:
Some studies have linked stress-elevated blood pressure to higher intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eyes. Raised IOP is associated with macular degeneration or glaucoma. Reducing stress to lower blood pressure may prevent those conditions, but it doesn’t affect cataracts.
Another claim is that dehydration allows toxins accumulating in the body to damage the eye lenses’ proteins. The suggested solution? Drink enough water daily to flush the toxins.
But a study by Nigerian university researchers showed only that dehydration lowered IOP. It didn’t indicate toxic buildup causing long-term damage eye damage. Staying hydrated is essential for health, but not because it’s one of the remedies for cataracts.
Cataract Remedies: Eye Drops
Two kinds of eye drops are marketed as remedies for cataracts, but only N-acetylcarnosine(NAC) drops are sold for human use. One study of NAC took place in Russia in 1998, when 49 cataract sufferers used the drops for two years.
After six months, according to the Helmholtz Research Institute researchers, nearly 90 percent of the study’s subjects reported improved vision and reduced glare sensitivity. But no other studies have been duplicated those results.
In 2015, University of San Diego researchers tested lanosterol on dogs suffering from genetically caused cataracts. After six weeks all the animals showed signs of noticeable improvement. Three had completely transparent lenses.
To succeed, however, the researchers had to anesthetize the dogs and administer lanosterol injections along with the drops, which couldn’t penetrate the lenses completely.
A company claiming to have patented lanosterol eye drops with improved penetration is now marketing them for animals. Like many herbal supplements also touted as remedies for cataracts, neither of these eye drops has gone through FDA testing.
Even if they provide some improvement, they may contain other harmful ingredients. So their long-term safety, as well as their effectiveness, is unproven.
Cataract Remedies to Slow Progression
The American Optometric Association reports that several studies link the long-term use of vitamins C and E with slower cataract progression. The studies’ subjects achieved these benefits with daily consumption of 250 mg or more of vitamin C, 100 IU or more of vitamin E and about 6 mg of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
The AOA recommends the following foods rich in these nutrients as remedies for cataracts:
- Vitamin C: citrus fruits, papaya, green peppers, tomatoes and strawberries
- Vitamin E: corn and safflower oil, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, pecans and almonds
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, corn, peas, red or orange peppers and other colorful fruits and vegetables
Certain medications, including steroids, may actually speed cataracts’ progression. We strongly advise:
- Informing all your doctors of your cataracts
- Learning the potential side effects of your medications
- Taking all prescribed medications according to doctors’ orders.
For the best results, adopt these remedies for cataracts as soon as they’re diagnosed.
Cataract Surgery Is the Only Cure
Suggested remedies for cataracts range from completely speculative to reasonably well established. But none of them qualifies as a cure. Only surgery does, but it’s limited to patients whose vision is no longer correctable with prescription lenses.
An eye surgeon performs the two-step operation as an outpatient procedure. It begins with two incisions in the cornea and lens capsule. The exposed lens may be softened with a laser before being fragmented with sound waves.
After removing the fragments, the surgeon implants an artificial silicone or plastic intraocular lens (IOL) to replace the natural one. The eye may need several weeks to heal completely. Vision should normalize over several months.
Like all surgeries, cataract removal carries risks of infection or complications. To minimize them, have it performed by a highly qualified surgeon using state-of the art equipment. Then follow up regularly with an ophthalmologist.
Cataract Remedy: Conclusion
The only way to restore cataract-impaired vision is to have the cataract surgically removed. The most other remedies for cataracts can accomplish is to extend the amount of time before surgery becomes necessary.
And even then, many advertised remedies for cataracts aren’t backed by scientific evidence proving their effectiveness. The best way to separate the proven from the unproven is to do research and discuss each remedy with a medical professional before spending time or money on it!
Please feel free to contact us, (318) 771-7597. Our team is here to answer all questions you have regarding any eye condition you may be suffering from. We always work diligently to assist our patients efficiently and answer any questions you may have.
To provide adequate one-on-one time with our patients, our office is by appointment only. Please contact our front office staff prior to visiting so we can confirm.