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Cataracts

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.

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Common Symptoms

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).

Recommended Supplements

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%.

Copper, Manganese, Selenium & Zinc - These minerals are important for proper healing and for retarding the growth of cataracts. These nutrients seem to be deficient in the cataractous lens.

Glutathione - An antioxidant known to prevent the progression of cataracts.

B Complex (especially B1 and B2) - B1 and B2 are important for intracellular eye metabolism. B2 deficiency has been linked to 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.

Nutritional Treatment

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.
 

References:

Nutritional Almanac, Gayla and John Kirschmann
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James and Phyllis Balch
The Physician’s Handbook of Clinical Nutrition, Henry Osiecki
 

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.


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