A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. Lenses are composed largely of water and protein, with the protein being arranged in a precise way. When the protein starts to clump together, a cataract begins to form.

Cataracts can develop for a variety of reasons. Simple old age is probably the most common cause, with other causes including diabetes, long-term ultraviolet exposure, exposure to radiation, genetic factors, and eye injury and trauma. Some drugs, such as corticosteroids, can also induce cataract formation.

When cataracts first start to develop, they have little effect on vision. Sometimes, a newly forming cataract can even improve close vision, causing near-sightedness. Over time, though, as the cataract grows, vision becomes impaired. Images may become blurred or fuzzy. Night vision may be poor, and street lights may cause glare or appear to be surrounded by halos. Colors may seem to fade or change. Eventually, if the cataract is left untreated, blindness can result. In advanced cases, the lens can even rupture, leading to severe inflammation.

When a cataract has developed to the point where there is a good deal of vision loss, surgery can remove the clouded lens and replace it with a permanent plastic lens. In earlier stages, however, certain nutrients can slow the formation of cataracts and even prevent them from developing in the first place.

Supplements to treat cataracts

• Alpha-lipoic acid – Improves blood sugar levels so diabetics may be able to take less medication.
• B-complex vitamins
• Beta carotene – Do not take for extended periods of time. Do not take high dosages if you have liver disease, are a smoker, or are exposed to asbestos.
• Bilberry – May cause low blood sugar levels.
• Carnosine eye drops
• Copper – Your copper-to-zinc ratio is very important for your health. Also, do not take copper supplement cupric oxide, which has a very low bioavailability.
• Lutein
• Manganese – Ingesting more than 4 mg a day can be toxic. Use with caution if you have liver disease.
• N-acetylcysteine (NAC) – When taking NAC supplements, also take extra vitamin C, copper, and zinc.
• Quercetin
• Selenium
• Vitamin A and mixed carotenoids – Use caution when taking vitamin A supplements because they have the potential to be toxic. Do not take for extended periods of time. Do not take more than 8,000 IU a day if you have liver disease, are a smoker, or are exposed to asbestos.
• Vitamin C
• Vitamin E
• Zinc

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