Waterfall Eye

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Photo of a healthy eye: by J-J-Rousseau (GFDL license via Wikimedia Commons).

It has been said that if you live long enough you will get cataracts! However, this doesn’t mean that we absolutely have to comply, since there is always hope of finding better ways to care for our eyes.  In this post we look at how you may be able to protect yourself from this problem looming in your future.

The word cataract comes from the Greek katarráktēs which means waterfall. Imagine standing behind a waterfall and looking out at the world and you will get an idea of what cataracts can do to your vision. The majority of cases are caused by aging and most surgeries are performed on people in their 70s and 80s, but recently there has been an increase in the number of cataract surgeries performed on younger people.

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A human eye with a cataract. By Rakesh Ahuja, MD (Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons)

The most popular treatment for cataracts is lens replacement surgery featuring phacoemulsification that uses ultra-sound to breakdown the existing lens. It is a very delicate surgery because the 4-5 micron pouch around the lens called the capsule must be preserved to support the new plastic intraocular lens. Amazingly the whole procedure can usually be performed without the need for sutures because very small incisions (< 3 mm) are designed to close up immediately upon the removal of the tool.

As with all surgeries there is some risk of infection or other complications during the surgery and post surgery, so it may be a good idea to explore the alternatives with your eye doctor.  Before exploring alternative treatments, let’s look at how we may be able to prevent cataracts from forming in the first place.

Oxidative damage alters the proteins in the lens over time either directly or by damaging the DNA in the eye.  Glycation (sugar-coating) of the proteins in the lens may also cause them to become opaque.  Dr. Andrew Weil provides an online article full of recommendations for avoiding cataracts through proper diet rich in antioxidants.  He states the following:

“Both the lens of the eye and the aqueous humor contain protective enzymes that breakdown the damaged proteins that clump together and cause cataracts. Antioxidants keep these enzymes from being destroyed. Vitamin C, vitamin E (mainly tocopherols), glutathione, and a variety of carotenoids are present in lens tissue and in the fluid that surrounds it.”

Dr. Weil also mentions lutein and zeaxanthin and provides a list of foods that contain these antioxidants (mangoes, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, tomatoes and dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards, bok choy, egg yolk).  According to Dr. Weil there is good evidence that lutein helps protect against both cataracts and macular degeneration, two diseases that impair vision as we age.

In addition to aging and diet, other possible causes of cataracts are:

  1.  Exposure to excessive ultraviolet radiation
  2. Smoking, alcohol consumption
  3. High body mass index
  4. Diabetes
  5. Use of steroids such as prednisone, and certain medications
  6. Heavy metals
  7. Excessive exposure to RF radiation in the microwave range such as from cell towers, cell phones, WiFi, etc.

As you can see from the above list, it may make sense to use sunglasses that block UV (although DR. Edward Kondrot argues that some UV is necessary to prevent cataracts), improve health habits, lose weight, control sugar, and use landlines instead of cellphones when available.  I personally like to shut off the wireless router before going to bed at night and only turn it on during the day if it is needed.  I also make sure not to use the computer that is near the wireless router when the WiFi is enabled.   I notice that when I follow these simple precautions my eyes fare better during the day,  and I experience less insomnia and ear ringing at night.

Alternative Treatments for Cataracts

DR. Edward Kondrot, MD, MD(H), CCH, DHt,  has posted an educational video on YouTube regarding alternative treatments for cataracts that discusses the use of diet (70% raw living organic food / 30% organic but cooked), hydration, detoxification (chelation therapy), stress reduction, eye drops (Can C, Cineria maritima, Oclumed, DMSO/ascorbic acid/glutathione, EDTA), high dose vitamin C, laser therapy, light therapy, Infrared therapy, sunning the eye (closing eyes and allowing sunlight to penetrate the closed eye), and frequency specific microcurrent.   If you would like to learn more about these alternative treatments, feel free to watch this video and discuss it with your doctor.

Mainstream ophthalmologists do not appear to believe that cataracts can be reversed through alternative treatments.  For example in wikipedia we find the following:

“The Royal College of Ophthalmologists issued the following public statement about NAC as of August 2008:

The evidence for the effectiveness of N-acetyl carnosine eye drops is based on experience on a small number of cases carried out by a Russian researcher team [Babizhayev]. To date, the research has not been corroborated and the results replicated by others. The long-term effect is unknown. Unfortunately, the evidence to date does not support the ‘promising potential’ of this drug in cataract reversal. More robust data from well conducted clinical trials on adequate sample sizes will be required to support these claims of efficacy. Furthermore, we do not feel the evidence base for the safety is in any way sufficient to recommend its use in the short term. More research is needed.”[11]

However, there does appear to be clear evidence that an eye drop solution for cataracts may be on the horizon.  On July 22 of this year it was reported in Nature that the steroid lanosterol was used to eliminate naturally occurring cataracts in dogs.  This finding is also discussed in detail on the Science Alert website.  This is great news for those of us who are not looking forward to aging as currently practiced in the US.

We find that there is hope not only for prevention of cataracts but also for noninvasive cures.  And as Ben Franklin would say , “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  So if your doctor has told you that you have early signs of cataracts and that you will need surgery in a few years,  there is much you can do besides waiting.

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