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Cataract Information

Symptoms | Causes | Harmful drugs | Tips | Self help discussion | Conventional Treatment | Vitamins & Supplements
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Cataracts are the major cause of vision loss in the United States. Symptoms can include blurry, hazy vision that worsens over time as well as sensitivity to glare. Research has shown that treatment in the form of specific lifestyle, diet and supplement choices can support overall lens health.

Self Help & Tips

Vision through cataractsA cataract appears as an opaque spot on the lens of the eye that obstructs vision. It may seem as though you are looking through a hazy cloud. The density of the cataract typically increases over time so the effect on your vision will vary depending the cataract density and the location of the cataract on the lens. Many people first experience a general bluriness of vision requiring more light to read by, and/or more difficulty reading street signs. Depth perception can often be affected resulting in an added risk of falling for seniors.

Symptoms

  • We seem to have hazy and/or blurry vision. This is especially true in bright light or glare conditions.
  • We have poor vision at night, making driving dangerous at night.
  • The eye lens may appear cloudy.
  • We find that we need more light to read and that reading is tiring.
  • Our dept perception is not very good.
  • We see halos, especially in bright sunlight.
  • Our glasses always seem dirty, no matter how much we clean them.

Causes

Read about the mechanics of cataract formation or read the full technical article.

  • Free radicals the by-products of our metabolism of food, cause oxidation, and in turn accelerating aging. As the lens of the eye ages, it hardens and loses the flexibility needed for focusing.
  • Chronic stress - physical due to injury to the back or neck, continuing dental pain, or stress that limits movement of the head (and eyes) and increases tension and tightness in muscles.
  • Allergies and food sensitivities, especially allergies of soy, wheat or dairy products which might give rise to congestion and slow or block circulation of tiny capillaries delivering nutrients to the eye, as well as lymphatic drainage.
  • Toxins and drug side effects, including steroids and photosensitizers that are found in medicines prescribed for gout and high cholesterol as well as and antibiotics.
  • Smoking: People who smoke have a 50% higher risk of developing cataracts. When you smoke you rob the body of vitamin C a needed nutrient for healthy vision. Smokers also have more cholesterol and fat in their blood system with more risk of coronary artery disease. This condition also compromises the effectiveness of tiny blood vessels in the eyes - reducing the ability of the different parts of the eye to receive adequate nutrition.
  • Diabetics form cataracts at a younger age than those who do not suffer from diabetes.
  • Poor digestion and nutrition: nutritional deficiencies contribute to earlier and faster-developing cataracts. People with incomplete digestion and ongoing bowel and elimination problems have a four times as many cases.
  • Heredity and advanced age by themselves are risk factors.
  • Sunlight includes invisible UV light that accelerates damage to the lens by free radicals. These effects are cumulative.
  • Alcohol: More than one drink a day doubles the risk.
  • High BMI: The World Health organization reports that high body mass index is an indicator of high cataract risk.
  • Surgery complication: Cataracts can also develop following eye surgery such as a vitrectomy for epiretinal membrane.

These drugs can cause or worsen cataracts: (also see "Drugs That Harm the Eyes" for a more complete list of harmful drugs:)

Photosensitizing drugs

These drugs which make you more light-sensitive to sunlight cause chemical changes to tissue which, in turn, can make you more vulnerable. Among the more common photosensitizing drugs:

  • Birth control pills
  • Antihistamines
  • Sulfa drugs
  • Tranquilizers and antidepressants
  • Oral anti-diabetic drugs
  • Glucocorticoids (Prednisone) Cataracts will form in half of the people who take doses of 10-15 milligrams prednisone daily over 1-2 years.
  • NSAIDS (for example ibuprofen, advil, meclofen).
  • Steroids Cataracts caused by steroids are dense and can cause rapid vision loss. They will not go away when medication is stopped and have to be removed surgically. If you must take steroids, be sure to get plenty of antioxidants such as lutein, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin E, and vitamin C for prevention.
  • Etretinate, isotretinoin

Conventional Cataract Treatment

Read about cataract surgery risks and news.

There are three forms of surgery, the common treatment to remove cataracts.

  • The front half of the outside of the lens cover is removed in extracapsular surgery
  • Ultrasound is used to break up the core of the lens, which is then removed - this is called phacoemulsification.
  • The entire lens and the "capsule" containing it are remvoed in intracapsular surgery.

Usually the natural lens is replaced which an artificial, plastic lens. It is a permanent implant.

Recovery from surgery typically takes a day or so, but adjustment to the new lens can take weeks to months for some people. Ointment or eye drops are recommended after surgery to reduce inflammation, prevent infection and help healing. Surgery may some some people increase the risk of later on for retinal tears or detachments.

Self Help Discussion

  • Diet. Diet is very important. A 2011 study1 compared diets of nearly 28,000 people, and found that those who ate the most meat had the highest incidence of lens problems. This doesn't mean to stop eating meat, but it does demonstrate that a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables is helpful in reducing risk.
  • Daily juicing of fruits and vegetables (organic is best). Our lens support recipe includes some combination of: spinach, carrots, celery, radish, watermelon, and raspberries (not too much fruit). See see more info on juicing.
  • Supplement your diet with a good multivitamin.
  • Prevention is the best medicine. Using complementary medicine to try to address the underlying cause, along with traditional medicine to try to prevent damage on an acute basis, is the best approach to preserving vision both short and long-term.
  • Eye health support general recommendations.

Cataracts Quick TipQuick Tip: See Vitamins & Supplements to support the lens

Studies and Information

See Research on cataract vitamins

Additional footnote:

1. Diet, vegetarianism, and cataract risk., Paul N Appleby, Naomi E Allen, and Timothy J Key, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2011.

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Vitamins & Supplements
Symptoms | Causes | Harmful drugs | Tips | Self help discussion | Conventional Treatment | Reviews | Resource