What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging and are very common in older people. There is a high incidence of cataracts amongst diabetics and it is the leading cause of impaired vision and blindness.
The most common symptoms of a cataract are: cloudy or blurry vision; colours seem faded; glare; headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright; a halo may appear around lights; poor night vision; double vision or multiple images in one eye. (This symptom may clear as the cataract gets larger.); frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Types of Cataracts
Although most cataracts are related to aging, there are other types of cataract:
Secondary cataract: Cataracts can form after surgery for other eye problems, such as glaucoma. Cataracts also can develop in people who have other health problems, such as diabetes. Cataracts are sometimes linked to steroid use.
Traumatic cataract: Cataracts can develop after an eye injury, sometimes years later.
Congenital cataract: Some babies are born with cataracts or develop them in childhood, often in both eyes. These cataracts may be so small that they do not affect vision. If they do, the lenses may need to be removed.
Radiation cataract: Cataracts can develop after exposure to some types of radiation.
Prevention can easier than the cure
Once a cataract has developed, nutrition and vitamin supplementation are limited in their effectiveness. However, there are many things people can do to prevent cataracts from forming. These preventive actions include: not smoking, reducing exposure to sunlight by wearing UVA/UVB protective eyewear and wide brimmed hats, controlling other diseases such as diabetes and eating a healthy diet.
The sugar galactose, present in milk, can contribute to cataract formation in 30% of patients, particularly in diabetic patients. This may be because galactose increases the need for and creates a deficiency for riboflavin (B2).
Antioxidant Supplement - As cataracts are believed to be related to the cumulative damage of free radicals, an antioxidant formula may be helpful in preventing this damage (refer below).
Vitamin A, Vitamin C (+ bioflavonoids) and Vitamin E - Vitamin A, C & E may work against oxidative stress by preventing compounds called free radicals from causing molecular damage to lens tissue, particularly its proteins. It has been shown that Vit E supplementation can reduce the risk of cataracts by at least 67%.
Glutathione - An antioxidant known to prevent the progression of cataracts.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin - Lutein and zeaxanthin are promising nutrients in the fight against cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in the lens. Several recent studies have examined these two nutrients and their relationship to reducing the risk of developing cataracts.
Bilberry herbal extract - This contains bioflavonoids, which aid in the removal of chemicals from the retina of the eye.
If you have cataracts, be sure to avoid anti-histamines.
Avoid direct UV light and bright light exposure. Wear sun glasses in bright light.
Avoid rancid foods and other sources of free radicals.
Increase consumption of lentils, cabbage, onions, garlic and spinach.
Avoid all milk or galactose rich products. Sugar should also be avoided.
Inhibit the enzyme aldose reductase by supplementing with quercetin.
Check for mercury toxicity or burden.
Glutathione peroxidase is decreased in cataracts. This can be stimulated by zinc and copper supplementation.
Check for hypothyroidism
Stop smoking: smoking increases the risk of cataracts.
Increase consumption of carotenoids eg lutein and zeaxanthin. These components protect the eye from free radical damage eg carrots, yellow vegetables and fruit.
Nutritional Almanac, Gayla and John Kirschmann
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James and Phyllis Balch
The Physician’s Handbook of Clinical Nutrition, Henry Osiecki